Saturday 31 October 2020




After two tours in Vietnam and 25 years as a police officer, Thomas Chisolm is looking forward to a quiet retirement. That hope is quickly shattered when Mai, a ghost from his past, finds him and demands justice for the horrors she suffered during the Vietnam War...horrors Chisolm couldn't save her from. Now Chisolm must find the man responsible and bring him to justice to repay an old debt and in the hopes of putting his own demons to rest...once and for all. 

Chisolm's Debt is written by River City author Frank Zafiro and features one of River City's most iconic characters. Follow Chisolm on his search as he explores the nature of moral debt, war, forgiveness, and guilt on his way to an explosive ending.

Way back when, before I discovered the joys of crime fiction, I was a massive reader of all things related to the Vietnam War, both fact and fiction. Reading a book which was a blend of both was for me then a double win.

Chisolm's Debt serves up a dual time narrative, with newly retired police officer Frank Chisolm featuring both back in the 70s as a grunt in Vietnam and in near present day as he is emotionally blackmailed into tracking down a fellow US veteran responsible for the rape of a young Vietnamese woman. 

I thought the re-emergence of the same woman, Mai from Chisolm's past, the one he tried his best to save but failed was a slight stretch for me plot-wise, but that said I really enjoyed the story.

The scenes set in Vietnam were tense and troubling ....... young men - barely men, thrust into an alien environment and landscape, trying their best to survive, some thrive, some become dehumanised and view everything and everyone as an enemy to be conquered. Friendship, loyalty, trust, camaraderie, bravery, duty, loss, a sense of right, contrasts with savagery, barbarism, cruelty, rape, entitlement, and a total abandonment of decency.

In the early 2010s we have the reconnection between Chisolm and Mai and Chisolm's subsequent search for the rapist veteran. This part of the narrative was enjoyable also. I liked the way Chisolm went about his task, utilising organisations with access to information on former serving members of the armed forces. I liked the less than straightforward path to his target, with some interesting events and diversions which this threw up.

Inevitably we get to a confrontation between Chisolm and the guilty man. It's less of a surprise to learn that time has not improved the demeanour or outlook of the rapist. He's a miserable, embittered man with little or no redeeming qualities. There's a skewed sense of pride in his boasting of showing his victim probably the best time of her life. 

Events take a further twist and reinforce the portrayal thus far of Chisolm's character as a decent man, brave, tenacious and determined; one imbued with a strong sense of right and wrong. Again, there's a wee suspension of disbelief as Chisolm, a man in his 60s belies his age to perform some physical feats way beyond the ken of most normal beings half his age.

Overall though, I really liked it.

4 from 5

Frank Zafiro's books have been enjoyed before, In the Shadow of El Paso and The Hardest Hit (a YA novel as Frank Scalise) and a couple of his co-authored works with Colin Conway - Charlie 316 and Never the Crime. He's one of my best reading discoveries of 2020.

Read - (listened to) October, 2020

Published - 2013

Page count - 230 (4 hrs 7 mins)

Source - Audible purchase

Format - Audible

Wednesday 28 October 2020




When Daniel Miller wakes up one morning, something has gone terribly wrong. The power is out. The phones are dead. The house is silent. The street is shrouded in fog. Both his partner and their adopted daughter are missing. So are their neighbors. And so is everyone else in the world. Daniel Miller is the last person left on Earth... or is he?

From award-winning, best-selling horror writer Brian Keene comes this quiet, chilling, supernatural short tale.

A slow-burner of a long short story.

A man wakes alone in his bed and irritation and annoyance at his partner for not waking him, soon turns to puzzlement - the house is empty, the power is out, the cell phone doesn't work, he can't pee. This puzzlement escalates to fear and despair over the next few days - or is it days? How can he tell? The clocks have stopped. His food has no taste. The neighbours are missing. Dropped things make no noise. 

A hopeful encounter with his adopted daughter sows further confusion, as he can't connect with her. Eventually all is revealed through a conversation with a neighbour's troubled child.

I really enjoyed this one, maybe because it was so different from my staple reading preferences of the past 30 years or so. I don't honestly know whether I tried to solve the mystery of what was happening or whether I didn't bother to try, just content to follow Daniel's efforts to discover what had happened to him and the world he knew. What sort of post-apocalyptic nightmare he had woken from?

In hindsight the ending was all so obvious and fitting.

Great writing, an interesting story, one with ever-increasing tension as Daniel learns his fate.

4 from 5

I've a couple more from Brian Keene in the Audible library which I will look forward to in future.

Read - October, 2020

Published - 2011

Page count - 54 (1 hr 20 mins)

Source - Audible purchase

Format - Audible

Tuesday 27 October 2020




Lizzie Randall, the preacher's daughter, is murdered. The men of the west Texas town are set on lynching Paco Morales, a Mexican teenager who happened to be in the vicinity at the time. No proof, but, after all, he is only a Mexican. Reason and/or conscience work on most of the would-be lynchers, so that, in the end justice is served. The list of suspects grows to include almost everyone in the story, thus providing an agreeable tangle of clues.

A really enjoyable book this one, the best I've read (or if you like, had read to me) this month so far.

A dead girl and an obvious scapegoat - a 15yr Mexican kid, a mob mentality, a beating - a prelude to a hanging, a weak sheriff, a dead father, an unpunished card cheat, a preacher with a secret past and a disturbed mind, the town drunk, a pregnancy, a kill or cure doctor, a little man with a chip on both shoulders and an axe to grind, a fiance who can't keep it in his pants, his would be wife with a temper and a rifle, a sheriff's deputy with scars and no stomach for more killing, a rich businessman doing his civic duty, the Mexican kid's mother - a widow with a strong urge to keep her son alive and a long memory or how the law failed her husband, a barkeep easily led and some other assorted townsfolks and witnesses.

Crider mixes up a heady brew, with a decent cast of characters, and an incendiary situation. Racism, mob mentality and a face off between the few that stand for reason and justice and the enraged with the ropes. 

There are a lot of secrets uncovered as the book progresses and the possibilites increase as to the killer's identity. These get eliminated one by one, until there's only one that remains. Bill Crider does keep the pot boiling though, I thought we had the one, but actually at that point we had two.

Cracking, and a reminder that I should read more Western genre fiction than I currently do - after all it's crime fiction with hats and horses.

4.5 from 5

Bill Crider's work has been enjoyed before - Outrage at Blanco and a short piece Piano Man.

Read - (listened to) October, 2020

Published - 1989

Page count - 175 (5 hrs 41 mins)

Source - Audible purchase

Format - Audible 

Monday 26 October 2020




A richly detailed, and deeply engrossing espionage thriller. Brian Landers is the real deal.'-- Andrew Raymond, author of the Novak and Mitchell thrillers

Thomas Dylan is an unlikely spy.

Rejected by MI6 he joins the Ministry of Defence where his first mission is a total failure. Unexpectedly he is then sent to Rio de Janeiro to recover a submarine interrogator stolen from the US Navy.

In Brazil he discovers that those supposedly on his side, MI6 and the CIA, have their own priorities and his life is not one of them.

A murderous game which began with the death of a British spy in Argentina is being played out in a city of sun, sea and secret police. When he comes face-to-face with the brutal realities of Brazil's military dictatorship Dylan has to trust somebody. But who?

He knows for sure that the woman he wants to trust has been lying to him from the very beginning. But why?

This is a fast-paced thriller in the vein of John le Carré and Eric Ambler.

Awakening of Spies is the first in a four book series featuring Thomas Dylan. The book is set in the early 70s and has Dylan, a novice British agent globetrotting in an effort to avoid an important piece of marine technology falling into the wrong hands after it has been pinched from the US Navy and hawked on the black market.

Dylan is an unlikely candidate for the task he has been set, something he himself seems only too aware of. Fairly new to the Ministry of Defence, he is already cute enough to understand the internal politics of the department and its sometimes spikey relationship with its counterparts in M16. Intelligence and savvy is one thing, lack of field experience is another.

Firstly, events in The Netherlands turn sour. Dylan acquits himself well, but the main ojective isn't met. Off to the States and again defeat is snatched from the jaws of victory, which had me (and Thomas) puzzling as to why he was then Brazil bound. By the end of the book all becomes clear, to the both of us.

I like the time frame of the book and the depiction of early 70s Brazil, where the vast portion of the novel takes place. Dylan gets a first hand view of the corruption and brutality elements of the police will go to. Brazil isn't a democracy. Rio and the surrounding countryside is, in this book anyway a hot-bed of spies, assassins, dodgy cops, foreign agents, gun dealers, bomb makers and other assorted miscreants. 

In Rio he has the assistance and experience of the local Brit on the ground to fall back on, but there's always the sense that he's slightly out of his depth, that people aren't being straight with him and that he's always a half-step behind. People check up on him, use false names, and avoid giving direct answers to his questions - and that's just his own side.

I liked the mini dramas and incidents. I liked how Dylan conducted himself and adapted quickly to the ever changing circumstances. There's also a bit of spice and potential romance with a female operative, Julie, who works closely with our man during phases of the drama - always assuming they can trust each other enough to move things on. 

I did have a bit of a hard time keeping track of everybody in the book, as the author introduces a lot of players during the course of the narrative. That said the book does tie up nicely in the end with answers to all the questions I had.

An interesting book and one I enjoyed with more to like than take issue with. I'd be keen to read the next book in the series - Family of Spies.

4 from 5

Read - October, 2020
Published - 2020
Page count - 275
Source - review copy recevied from publisher RedDoor Press
Format - ePUB file read on laptop

Sunday 25 October 2020




Cherry blossom season is Washington, D.C.'s most beautiful time of the year. But as tourists flock to the city, this year's festivities are marred by the discovery of the naked body of a young woman floating in the Tidal Basin. Veteran homicide detective Brian (Brick) Kavanagh is assigned to the case. He's shocked when he learns the victim is connected to another homicide which makes the investigation very personal for him. Brick's efforts to solve the case are thwarted by departmental politics and a rush to judgment. Convinced that justice has not been served and the wrong person is in jail, Kavanagh risks all to relentlessly pursue the truth. Overlooked evidence ultimately leads to a devastating conclusion in a heartbreaking case.

Relentless was another book enjoyed via Audible. It starts out as a standard police procedural, with Washington detective, Brick Kavanagh along with his partner investigating the death of a young woman found in water. The victim's brother who was known to Brick also turns up the victim of another homicide. The direction the case seems to take, indicates it's in relation to a people smuggling ring and there's some overlap with a Hispanic gang. A man is arrested, confesses and is charged.

The book takes an interesting turn then, with Kavanagh, after a bust up with a fellow a-hole cop and a dressing down and suspension from his boss, turns in his gun and badge. Concerned that the man who confessed to the crime is getting railroaded, Kavanagh offers his investigative services gratis to the man's attractive female lawyer. 

I quite liked the twisted tale that the author spun here, with a few different story strands and supporting characters helping the give the book some flesh on the bones...... a young pregnant girl with a wayward husband and fears for her future, an Irish bar owner trying to do the right thing, Brick's cop partner Ron and the Vietnamese defence lawyer.

I was convinced by Kavanagh's sense of right and wrong and his pursuit of justice. I like that he surrounded himself by friends who felt similarly. An outlook that judges people as individuals rather than bracketing them as minorities of different ethnicities is always a positive.

There's a decent setting, a reasonable pace, an interesting main character with some family back story and an exciting climax, though it's one that comes a bit out of left field. 

More to like than dislike and I would be interested in seeing what the author does next with the main character in a future book. That's the benchmark of enjoyment from me - would I want to spend more time with the author's writing and Kavanagh? On this occasion, probably yes.

3.5 from 5     

Relentless is a debut novel from author Shawn Wilson.

Read - (listened to) October, 2020
Published - 2019
Page count - 288 (7 hrs 39 mins)
Source - Audible purchase
Format - Audible

I did have a copy courtesy of Net Galley, which unfortunately didn't survive the death of the last laptop.

Saturday 24 October 2020





The town of Yocum Valley is in for the longest, darkest night it has ever known. A night that will make some doubt their sanity, and others fear for their lives. A night when the heinous curse of its tainted ancestry will rise, in the form of a living horror, to seek savage vengeance....


The beast will stalk during the coldest, cruelest winter on record, in a place that is frozen, snowbound...and trapped at the mercy of something unspeakable, with a taste for human flesh and a thirst for human blood....


It’s waiting in the cold and dark to strike, again and again. And the terrified, disbelieving citizens are about to find themselves under siege - by something partly human partly animal...and completely deadly.

I suppose I could claim to be getting into the spirit of Halloween with this novel of a werewolf legend coming to life, but in truth I'm not a massive fan of the celebration. It existed when I was growing up, but it always felt a bit American and a bit faked, but only in the context of being an imported celebration. I did enjoy the book though, maybe a bit more than I expected to. I was reminded of reading Richard Laymon, way back before I discovered crime fiction, not that I could put my hand on heart and say Laymon ever penned a werewolf book.

Small town setting, remote, isolated, cut off when the weather is bad and obviously it gets bad here, the death of the oldest resident and the reactivation of the curse, which sees the unburied man biting nice guy, ex-cop, security man Ernie. Ernie then morphs into a werewolf and terrorises the town.

Simple plot as such, but I enjoyed the focus on the townsfolk, in particular, Ernie's niece, the young police chief, the kid reporter and the local author. A lot of the drama focuses on finding out more about the legend, concerns over Ernie and his health before he goes full-blown werewolf, investigating the murders, worrying about a pregnant wife, fighting off the unwelcome attentions of the town mayor who seems to think he can co-erce sex from Ernie's niece (name escapes me) who is also a teacher, a horny woman running an old folk's home and grabbing sex with the young employee and lots more.

It's a busy book, which as it progresses gets faster and wilder as the tension mounts. I think Pedneau might have had fun writing it. I hope so because I had fun reading the thing. I think the characters made the book ... their interactions, the conflicts, the sex, the legend backstory, the school scenes, the teenage lovers, the morphing and the escalation, with widespread panic, leading to vigilantism and mob fear.

Parking my realism/credibilty meter at the door, before entering this one, it was quite satisfying.

4 from 5

Dave Pedneau has been enjoyed before - A.P.B.

Read - (listened to) October, 2020

Published - 1990

Page count - 288
(10 hrs 46 mins)

Source - Audible purchase

Format - Audible


Friday 23 October 2020




Love mystery? Then you'll love this book. Hate mystery? Then YOU'LL love this book. Pronzini is a fount of information about the "best" (read: hilariously inept) in mystery fiction. He's read every book ever written in the genre, it seems, and shows genuine affection for the form. The fun he pokes at the authors and their works is gentle and doesn't distract at all from your wonderment at the fact that these books ever even existed. It might, however, make you want to seek them out and try for yourself. Or maybe it'll help prevent a misstep in purchasing a book you wouldn't end up enjoying. Either way, this book is worth a listen (or three). These mystery authors have gone unsung for too long.

An okay listen, but not a book that will live too long in the memory if I'm honest. I kind of hoped I'd be familiar with a lot of the examples Pronzini used to illustrate the best of the worst in the mystery genre but not really. 

There is a bit of a background on the history of the genre, as well as the spy story and also men's magazines of the 40s and afterwards, which was interesting.

Michael Avallone gets a mention several times - I've read his Shock Corridor years ago. Gladys Mitchell and Sax Rohmer get a bit of a slagging for the racism of their characters, which seemingly reflected their own world views. I've heard of Mitchell and read one Rohmer book - The Yellow Claw. I made a note of the racism towards the Chinese at the time, but it didn't especially jar with me.

Mickey Spillane and Mike Hammer get a mention and a bit of a tease, but Pronzini concentrates more on his imitators. (Note to self, read Spillane.) Richard Stark's Parker character is similarly name checked for imitation by a now forgotten author with a character named Sand which kind of piqued my interest. It's unlikely though that I'll follow up on it.

Pronzini, bless him seems to have as much fun reading a bad book as he does a good one. I don't think I share his enthusiasm if I'm honest. A lot of authors mentioned were unfamiliar to me and despite his hoping people seek them out, I won't be following that piece of advice.

3 from 5

Bill Pronzini wrote a follow up to this one - Son of Gun in Cheek, which I think I have a copy of somewhere which I will get to sometime (maybe). 

Read - (listened to) October, 2020
Published - 1982
Page count - 272 (8 hrs 11 mins)
Source - Audible purchse
Format - Audible

Wednesday 21 October 2020



A man wakes up in present-day Alaskan wilderness with no idea who he is, nothing on him save an empty journal with the date 1898 and a mirror. He sees another man hunting nearby, astounded that they look exactly alike except for his own beard. After following this other man home, he witnesses a wife and child that brings forth a rush of memories of his own wife and child, except he’s certain they do not exist in modern times—but from his life in the late 1800s.

After recalling his name is Wyatt, he worms his way into his doppelganger Travis Barlow’s life. Memories become unearthed the more time he spends, making him believe that he’d been frozen after coming to Alaska during the Gold Rush and that Travis is his great-great grandson. Wyatt is certain gold still exists in the area and finding it with Travis will ingratiate himself to the family, especially with Travis’s wife Callie, once Wyatt falls in love. This turns into a dangerous obsession affecting the Barlows and everyone in their small town, since Wyatt can’t be tamed until he also discovers the meaning of why he was able to be preserved on ice for over a century.

A meditation on love lost and unfulfilled dreams, The Ancestor is a thrilling page-turner in present day Alaska and a historical adventure about the perilous Gold Rush expeditions where prospectors left behind their lives for the promise of hope and a better future.

The question remains whether it was all worth the sacrifice…

A bit of a strange one from publisher All Due Respect and author Lee Matthew Goldberg, when compared to their previous publications, but one I really enjoyed. Part adventure novel, part present day crime fiction, with a splash of the impossible-unexplainable welded into the narrative. That said the way Goldberg dealt with this "event" had me convinced and I could easily buy into it. I think a failure to sell Wyatt's re-birth would have kind of rendered all that followed irrelevant.

1890s..... poverty, illness, despair, ergo Alaska, the gold rush, dreams of riches, a family left behind, a voyage, danger, hurdles, friends, foes, hardship, sacrifice, mis-trust, murder and oblivion.

Present day..... Alaska, an awakening, confusion, an honest to God double, memory gaps, a struggle for comprehension and an adapting to bewildering circumstances.

The Ancestor is a fantastic novel of identity theft, but unlike anything I've read before ...... family, loss, grief, regrets, a search for understanding and acceptance of a new and strange reality, which then morphs into envy, which then inspires covetousness and reveals a darker side of Wyatt's character hitherto unseen. There is an event in his past that does indicate he is a serious man and one you don't take liberties with, but there's also a certain naivety about how he was duped into taking action.

I liked the dual time-line aspect of the book. I enjoyed reading about Wyatt in the late 1800s, leaving his family and embarking on his quest and the subsequent adventures afterwards. These adventures are kind of drip fed into the narrative as he indulges in some pretty serious drug use as a method of recovering his past and his memories. At my age I go upstairs for three things, remember two when I get there and stand on the landing scratching my head. I doubt I shall resort to Wyatt's methods to banish my forgetfulness.

In the present day, I liked how he quickly adapted to his surroundings and managed to inveigle himself into the life of Travis Barlow, his descendant. There's a bit of tension surrounding the Barlow clan, with Travis's unsettled marriage close to home and a generation removed we have Travis's parents still struggling with the loss of their other wayward son. Travis's father, Stu is a cop and is suspicious of Wyatt's intentions towards Travis and his family, which helps add some zest to the situation. Grayson, Travis's best friend has similar issues with Wyatt's sudden appearance in town, a lot of which can be attributed to jealousy and a sense of losing Travis. 

It's interesting to compare and contrast Wyatt and Travis - the two main characters and doppelgangers - their capabilities and faults; their contrasting relationships with other townfolks; one's a bit of a dreamer, one's a bit more pragmatic and ruthless. It's the strong vs the weak. Wyatt's predatory wolf-like cunning is fully exposed before the end of the book. 

Conclusions....... a great premise, with a really imaginative set-up. There's a decent pace which never stagnates and maintained my interest throughout, and its populated by well described characters and plenty of incident. There's a lot of little sideshows and unmentioned story tangents and characters that add to the overall drama. While I felt there was a certain inevitability about the outcome, it didn't spoil my enjoyment at all. If anything, it has possibly whet my appetite for another book featuring Wyatt.

4.5 from 5

Lee Matthew Goldberg has been read and enjoyed before - short story De/tached and the thriller The Desire Card. I'll be reading him again in future.

Read - September, 2020
Published - 2020
Page count - 350
Source - review copy received from the author
Frmat - paperback ARC

Tuesday 20 October 2020




They're aiming to knock over 1965 Sin City!  

It's the holiday season of 1965, and the fabulous Caesars Palace resort and casino is about to open in Las Vegas. And its vault is filled to bursting with cash.  

John Harper and Saul "Salsa" Salzman roll into town with inside information: a secret way into the casino, leading right to the vault itself. Putting together a small but highly skilled team, they make their move, aiming for untold riches.  

But jobs like this never go as planned. A beautiful widow, a jealous enforcer, and a murderous rival casino owner all want a piece of the pie. Before New Year's Day arrives, Harper and Salsa will be lucky to escape Sin City with their lives!   

A brand-new heist tale from the award-winning author of Sentinels, the Legion trilogy, and Lucian.   

“When planning a heist, it’s good to learn from the masters, and it’s clear that Van Allen Plexico has: from Richard Stark to Lionel White to Ocean’s Eleven, the fingerprints of the greats are all over this smart, snappy casino job.” (Charles Ardai, editor, Hard Case Crime)

"Impossible to put down. Filled with twist and turns that you don’t see coming until the very end. It is a terrific read and one we highly recommend." (Ron Fortier, Pulp Fiction Reviews)

Definite Stark/Westlake/Parker vibes from this one and that's no bad thing, because I loved the first round of those books when I read them maybe a dozen or so years ago. Maybe not quite as tight, tense and on point, but I get definite Parker vibes from our main character Harper. His partner here is Salzman, who sets up and sells the job to Harper - breaking into the vault of the soon to be opened Caesar's Palace casino in Vegas. 

It's a busy book, planning, recruiting, getting the firepower needed and for Harper trying to keep everyone and everything in check when he knows some of his team are intent on running a double cross.

I liked the Vegas 60s vibe, I liked the near misses and run ins and incidents prior to the job. I enjoyed the sting in the tale which the reader knows is coming, but is another hazard to be dealt with by a surprised Harper. I cracked up at the close shave near the end when Salzman uses his smarts to escape the cops, all the while wondering if Harper has run out on him.

The more I think about it, the better I think it was. I'm a big fan of robbers, thieves, heisters and con men in my reading, so with a decent cast of characters, plenty of pace and action and a satisfying outcome, there's ticks in most of the boxes for me.

4 from 5

Author Van Allen Plexico has written a second Harper & Salsa book, Miami Heist which I will keep an eye out for.

Read - (listened to) October, 2020
Published - 2018
Page count - 240 (6 hrs 31 mins)
Source - Audible purchase (I have a copy I bought for Kindle also)
Format - Audible 

Monday 19 October 2020




Cryer once had another name, but he can't remember it.

The man he used to be was stabbed in the head by an assailant. After months of catatonia Cryer awakens in a mental facility to find that his former life is almost completely forgotten. He knows his wife and daughter have been murdered - he saw them die moments before his own assault - but his shattered mind is incapable of retaining their names. Or even his own.

Now Cryer is free again and trying to track down an elusive killer through his own unknown past. But how do you investigate the murders of your loved ones when you can't remember them? When you have no idea who your friends or enemies were? Where you lived and worked? And what secrets you might have once had and failed to keep?

And how is he supposed to deal with the little man who keeps crawling in and out of his skull?

Cryer is a nobody now, but that won't stop him from finding a vicious murderer and making him pay.

Praise for The Nobody

THE NOBODY is a dangerous exploration into the mind and soul of man. Piccirilli’s beautiful prose allows us to take a peek into the abyss of our consciousness and shine a light into those places that warmth has long ago forgot. You cannot read this book and not be changed. --Larry Roberts - Bloodletting Press

A compelling, thrilling novella which sees a man recovering physically from a knife to the skull, bereft of family and all his memories, seeking to re-discover who he was and what was taken from him, before plotting to find the assailant and exact some revenge.

We follow Cryer's journey from the attack and murders and grievous injury, to recuperation and physical recovery, the object of police suspicion and hostility, to cunning investigator.

It's an incrediby sad tale of loss, with the over-riding quest for revenge the sole raison d'etre for living. There's no doubting Cryer's motivation here and it's an easy decision to jump on board and root for him.
Along the way we learn his former habits, his career and lifestyle, his weaknesses and failings, and his bond with his daughter which helps unlock the key to his quest.

Gripping, emotional, dark and violent. Very, very good.

4.5 from 5

The Nobody was previously an unknown (to me at least) Piccirilli offering. I'm glad I discovered it courtesy of Crossroad Press and Audible. The Dead Past and Sorrow's Crown have been enjoyed recently.

Read - (listened to) October, 2020
Published - 2009
Page count - 92 (2 hrs 14 mins)
Source - Audible purchase
Format - Audible

Friday 16 October 2020




Eleven-year-old Sam Parker is a hockey player entering the first year in which body checking is allowed. His natural fear of getting hit is temporarily overshadowed by finding out his parents are getting divorced. Determined to keep them together by being a hockey superstar, Sam instead suffers a bone-crunching check from the school bully in his first game of the season. The resulting pain and fear brings out the worst in Sam as one difficulty after another piles on. Even his best friend, Jill, doesn’t always seem to understand what he’s going through. Sam has to learn how to get up after life knocks you down – both on and off the ice.

A bit of a departure from my usual reading in the form of a book for early teenagers and younger readers. Author, Frank Scalise has been read before, as crime writing favourite Frank Zafiro .

The story centres on Sam, his ice hockey, his best friend and his parents. It's about being hurt emotionally and physically, being scared, bewildered and more than a little bit lost and uncertain. It's about discovering that the sun doesn't always shine and that life doesn't always turn out how you want.  It's about finding something within yourself, to confront your fears and get back up after been knocked down. It's about realising that not everything is your fault and that you don't have the power to fix everything. It's about acceptance and growing up.

I quite enjoyed the back drop of ice hockey as well, something I only ever catch a glimpse of every four years when a Winter Olympics rolls around. 

4 from 5

Read - (listened to) October, 2020
Published - 2011
Page count - 151 (3 hrs)
Source - Audible purchase
Format - Audible

Thursday 15 October 2020




THE SOUTHLAND tells the story of three unauthorized Mexican immigrants living in Los Angeles: Luz works multiple jobs to provide for herself and her teenage son Eliseo. Nadia, a former journalist with PTSD, fled Mexico and tries to stay hidden from the dangerous men that she exposed in Sinaloa. Ostelinda works as a laborer in a garment factory, having been deceived by coyotes and imprisoned in the same building since her arrival. Their lives intersect through terrifying circumstance that clarify and contrast the horrors of existence.

When Eliseo goes missing, Luz is lost. She doesn’t trust the authorities to help. One wrong move could get her deported. Luz has no option but to investigate her son’s disappearance on her own. Engaging Nadia and her roommate, they navigate an increasingly hostile American environment in an effort to reunite Luz’s small family. When Luz and Nadia uncover a link to the people that run the garment factory, the two women become determined to save more than just Luz’s son.

THE SOUTHLAND is a crime story, but more than that, it’s a story of America and the dangers that migrants face when being forced to live in the shadows.

Hard-hitting and at times uncomfortable reading...... we have victims - the dispossessed, the exploited, the invisible, the deceived, the exiled, the hidden - all bereft of opportunity and hope; trapped in a world far removed from the promised Land of the Free.  

It's a novel that depicts both the best and worst of humanity. It's shows how those with the least to give and the most to lose, offer what they have regardless of the consequences. 

It's topical, timely and on point. I think it offers more than just entertainment and a fast read. It opens up a window to a world which a lot of the mainstream media have already decided on the message for the masses. It provides a more personal insight into the motivations of people who decide to sacrifice home and family, to put themselves in great danger in pursuit of a dream of something safer and brighter. 

Dreams don't always come true though, sometimes they're vanquished like a snuffed candle, sometimes they get skewed and twisted and occasionally with enduring spirit and heart and bravery, they persist and you adapt and you go on.

My first time with author Johnny Shaw, but not my last.

4.5 from 5

Read - September, 2020
Published - 2020
Page count - 156
Source - Net Galley
Format - ePUB read on laptop

Wednesday 14 October 2020



Getting into bed with the wrong guy can get you killed

Wanting to free herself from her boyfriend, aging gangster “Maddog” Palmieri, Bobbi Ricci concocts a misguided plan with Denny, Maddog’s ex-driver, a guy who’s bent on getting even with the gangster for the humiliating way in which he was sacked.

Helping themselves to the gangster’s secret money stash, along with his Cadillac, Bobbi and Denny slip out of town, expecting to lay low for a while before enjoying the spoils.

Realizing he’s been betrayed, an enraged Maddog calls in stone-cold killer Lee Trane. As Trane picks up their trail, plans quickly change for Bobbi and Denny, who now find themselves on a wild chase of misadventure through northern British Columbia and into Alaska. 

Time is running out for them once they find out that Trane’s been sent to do away with them, or worse, bring them back — either way, Maddog will make them pay.

A momentary bright spark in the thus far abysmal year of 2020. Cradle of the Deep is the eighth book from Dietrich Kalteis and the seventh one from him that has pretty much knocked my socks off. Why not the perfect eight? There's one I haven't yet read.

Kalteis writes about the kind of characters I like reading about.... criminals, chancers, low-lifes, mob guys, hangers-on, wannabe toughs, musicians, addicts, bartenders, strippers and the like - all interesting people, all mostly suffering fall out from either bad luck or no luck allied with poor choices and a lack of impulse control.

Here we have an aging mob guy, ripped off by his disaffected younger girlfriend, Bobbi on the same night as a disgruntled former employee and draft dodger, Denny decides to burglarize the mobster for some reparations. 

Working in tandem, through circumstance albeit with little trust between the pair, the twosome go on the run with a couple of suitcases full of cash and after a short interval, with a hitman dogging their trail.

It's a cracking drama, chock-full of incident, with plenty of bounce in the fluctuating relationship between Bobbi and Denny - our two fugitives. 

Seeking sanctuary and holed up, they cross paths with some local police who has pegged them for stealing his cop car and inflicting further embarassment on his reputation. Its another red flag which automatically marks them out to the inquisitive residents of the small isolated community; all wondering about the strange newcomers in town and the secrets concealed in the truck of their car. Our not so dynamic duo are skating on thin ice, literally and figuratively. 

Along the way we hear about the Vietnam War on a personal level - grief and loss - and a refusal to be the next one in the meat grinder and we have a bit on women's rights and bra-waving. Along with the music and groups of the day as a further back-drop it's very firmly set in the 70s. What's not to like?

Pace, plot, characters, settings, action, humor, conflict, and a satisfying resolution. Big ticks in all the boxes. Roll on 2021 and hopefully number nine from one of my favourite authors.

4.5 from 5

Read - October, 2020
Published - 2020 (3rd November)
Page count - 309
Source - Net Galley
Format - EPUB read on laptop

Tuesday 13 October 2020


A enjoyable mixed bag of viewing last month.... two seasons from a copycat UK crime drama, a serial killer mini-series with a factual follow-on, a couple of fast-paced action sci-fi films - one at home, one at the cinema and a rom-com.

                                              Law and Order UK (2011) - ITV Drama (TV)

Great set-ups, great storylines, decent acting with on occasions a bit of irritation at some of the opinions and views held by some of the main players as a specific crime is investigated. Black and white, intransigent views, when we all know the world is grey. I suppose naivety is preferable to full-on world weary cynicism all the time.

From Wikipedia .....

Episode 1 "ID"

A pregnant woman is murdered in a car park, Devlin and Brooks believe it to be a crime of passion and suspect her ex-boyfriend. When the ex-boyfriend's alibi is confirmed they look to Joe Nash, the current boyfriend, who says he was with his psychiatric social worker, whom he sees for a severe sleeping disorder. Based on Joe's behaviour, Brooks believes him to be an ex-con who is hiding something. When Joe is arrested, he admits that his real name is Billy Wells and that his new identity was arranged by the Home Office because he is on a life licence for the murder of his teacher when he was eleven years old. When he recants the admission to being Billy Wells, attempts to verify his identity expose a conspiracy that involves high ranking government officials, including the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Home Secretary.

Episode 2 "Denial"

Brooks and Devlin investigate the shooting of Dame Rachel Callaghan (Juliet Stevenson), a well-known High Court judge, who is shot in the underground car park of her apartment building, in what looks like a carjacking gone wrong. They retrieve the car from a dupe who purchased it, and arrest the middleman in the sale. The middleman blames the crime on a man named Eddie. It becomes apparent that Eddie was hired to kill Callaghan, but his attempt went awry. The detectives believe that Callaghan's husband, Dan (John McArdle), was involved in the murder plot. However, Callaghan takes steps to defend her husband from prosecution, even when she is presented with evidence proving his guilt. Callaghan eventually has her medication withdrawn, prompting Steel to seek the court's permission to question her before she dies. When Callaghan tries to commit suicide, Steel seeks to have her declared mentally incompetent but Judge Mary Hall (Diana Quick) overrules Steel's motion. George is torn between friendship and respecting a person’s right to die as he tries to get Rachel to accept the truth of what has happened.

Episode 3 "Shaken"

An infant is found dead in his cot, it is suspected that the baby died of cot death. However, when it is revealed that the baby died as a result of being shaken, Brooks and Devlin initially suspect the live-in nanny, especially after she admits to being the only person around the baby in the 24 hours preceding his death. Things begin to get complicated, however, when it is discovered that other people were in the house that day. The live-in nanny's boyfriend soon falls under suspicion, as his rough attitude with his four-year-old nephew has come under suspicion from social services. However, it soon becomes clear that the nanny may have been having an off-day, and a quick reaction to a minor incident may have caused the fatal move.

Episode 4 "Duty Of Care"

A fire starts in a flat above a corner shop, a young mother is forced to leave her disabled 13-year-old son to die. Brooks and Devlin first suspect the shop owner, who has been renowned for insurance scam operations in the past. However, it later becomes clear that the fire was caused by the young boy's mother, who, after believing he had died from an epileptic seizure, decided to start the fire to kill herself. However, when her lawyer Dominic Peck (Oliver Dimsdale) appears to be bending the truth in an attempt to fool the jury, James and Alesha must deal with Peck, who is determined to win at all costs.

Episode 5 "Help"

Devlin and Brooks investigate the death of a Premiership footballer, Robbie Nicals, the evidence leads to a passer-by, Mike Jones (Lorcan Cranitch), who helped Nicals change a tyre. However, the man is about to get married, and forced to interrupt his nuptials, they interrogate him for details, which unveil a disturbing link to a gangster with connections in the police force and judiciary. Senior Crown prosecutor Steel must convince a man whose wedding was ruined by the investigation to give evidence in public against a renowned thug, whilst holding his own against the obsessive compulsive genius defence barrister Jason Peters (Eddie Marsan).

Episode 6 "Skeletons"

After a series of murders are committed across London with the same motive, it is suspected that Andrew Dillon, a serial killer from six years previous has returned to commit further crimes. However, Brooks and Devlin manage to track a new man down, and it seems that he was also responsible for the deaths Dillon supposedly committed. However, an alibi provided at the time by a deceased witness seemed to leave Dillon in the clear, despite the fact there is no evidence to back it up either way. It never reached court, however, so it would seem Steel apparently deleted the alibi and is accused of perverting the course of justice. Finding himself on the wrong side of the law, Steel battles for his career and his freedom.

                                                       Tenet (2020) - Cinema (Film)

A cracking sci-fi film which I'd actually struggle to describe or understand ........ with a helluva lot of backwards and forwards and backwards again - a total mind-fuck. I really enjoyed it. Wouldn't mind seeing it again and I reckon if I did I'd be none the wiser. 

Over here, the film was tasked with saving cinema during Covid, post-Covid and pre-second wave Covid. A bit of a burden to carry in my opinion and an unfair one. I think we've had five cinema trips since it re-opened and probably the most people including ourselves in any of the screenings has been about a dozen. It just doesn't seem sustainable and it's incredibly sad for the people who rely on the medium for their livelihoods. One rival chain has already shut its doors. I hope it's temporary, time will tell. We'll keep supporting it as long as it's open.

From Wikipedia .....

Tenet is a 2020 action-thriller and science fiction film written and directed by Christopher Nolan, who produced it with Emma Thomas. A co-production between the United Kingdom and United States, it stars John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Dimple Kapadia, Michael Caine, and Kenneth Branagh. The plot follows a secret agent (Washington) as he manipulates the flow of time to prevent World War III.

Nolan took more than five years to write the screenplay after deliberating about Tenet's central ideas for over a decade. Pre-production began in late 2018, casting in March 2019, and principal photography lasted three months in Denmark, Estonia, India, Italy, Norway, the United Kingdom, and United States, from May to November. Cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema shot on 70 mm and IMAX. Scenes of time manipulation were filmed both backwards and forwards. In excess of a hundred vessels and thousands of extras were used.

Delayed three times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tenet was released in the United Kingdom on August 26, 2020, and United States on September 3, 2020, in IMAX, 35 mm, and 70 mm. It was the first Hollywood tent-pole to open in theaters after the pandemic shutdown, and has grossed $323 million worldwide, making it the third highest-grossing film of 2020. The film received generally positive reviews from critics, who praised the performances, production value, and visuals, though some criticized the complex plot and sound mixing.

Des (2020) - ITV Drama (TV mini series)

Three nights running with a TV dramatisation about a notorious serial killer, one that I can recall hitting the headlines during the 80s. David Tennant is chilling as the real-life monster who killed and disposed of up to 15 hapless victims. Daniel Mays is excellent as the lead detective trying to identify the victims (not an easy task by any means) and give some closure for the families.

From Wikipedia....

Des is a British three-part television drama miniseries, based on the 1983 arrest of Scottish serial killer Dennis Nilsen, after the discovery of human remains causing the blockage of a drain near his home.The series premiered on 14 September 2020.

                                           The Real 'Des' (2020) - ITV  Documentary (TV)

The following night saw a documentary featuring some of the real life players and interviews and footage from the time 

From ITV.....

Dennis Nilsen is one of the most notorious serial killers in British criminal history. This documentary features exclusive interviews with those involved in his case.

                                                   Terminator Salvation (2009) - (TV Film)

I think I lost track of the Terminator films a long while ago and the various sequels, prequels, running order story arcs. I shan't beat myself up about it. I loved the originals with Arnie and never even knew this even existed until it popped up on TV last month. Hit record and bingo. I do like a bit of Christian Bale.

From Wikipedia...

Terminator Salvation is a 2009 American military science fiction action film directed by McG and written by John Brancato and Michael Ferris. It is the fourth installment of the Terminator film series and serves as both a sequel to 2003's Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and a prequel to 1984's The Terminator. The film stars Christian Bale and Sam Worthington, with Anton Yelchin, Moon Bloodgood, Bryce Dallas Howard, Common, Michael Ironside, and Helena Bonham Carter in supporting roles. In a departure from the previous installments, Salvation is a post-apocalyptic film set in the year 2018. It focuses on the war between Skynet's machine network and humanity, as the remnants of the world's militaries have united to form the Resistance to fight against Skynet's killing machines. Bale portrays John Connor, a Resistance fighter and central character, while Worthington portrays cyborg Marcus Wright. Yelchin plays a young Kyle Reese, a character first introduced in The Terminator, and the film depicts the origins of the T-800 Terminator.

                                          Law and Order UK Season 5 (2011) - ITV Drama (TV)

Still vibing this and continuing to work through the various series. Usually by now I've kind of gotten fed up and been side-tracked. I suppose it helps that each episode is only about 45 minutes long when you've fast-forwarded through the adverts. Sometimes you kind of wish for a bit more depth, but most of the stories are very good. A change of key cast members at various times throughout the seasons  has perhaps helped it maintain its freshness.

From Wikipedia....

Episode 1 "The Wrong Man"

18-year-old Suzanne Morton dies in unknown circumstances on a busy hospital ward, her father calls upon the help of Brooks and Devlin to find out just what caused her death. They discover that the A&E she was treated on has had three such untimely deaths within six months, and that her death may have been caused by a conflict between the drugs she was given and the medication she was taking at the time. Brooks and Devlin suspect Dr Grant, who was known to have treated her that evening. Things become complicated, however, when it is discovered that half of her medical notes have vanished, the report on the night in question has been doctored, and the suspect has bought a one-way ticket to Belgium. Brooks and Devlin catch up with their suspect, only to unravel a web of lies, involving a chiropodist who has been posing a doctor, a triage nurse who has been paid to keep silent, and a well respected doctor with a history of alcohol abuse who has been secretly addicted to codeine for three years. Senior Crown Prosecutor Jake Thorne must decide which one to prosecute in order to get justice for Suzanne's death.

Episode 2 "Safe"

When Kayla Stark reports that her two-year-old son, Ryan, has been taken from a high-street merry go round, Brooks and Devlin suspect that her ex-boyfriend, who is also the child's father, may be responsible. However, upon examination of the CCTV footage, the pair discover that the child was never on the merry-go-round, and that the buggy Kayla was pushing at the time was empty. Suspicion then turns to Kayla's current partner, and when the boy is found dead in the airing cupboard at his flat, Brooks and Devlin believe they have their man. However, without any evidence proving whether Kayla or her boyfriend killed Ryan, Thorne and Phillips must decide which guilty party to prosecute.

Episode 3 "Crush"

A Czech Escort Katerina Cizik is found stabbed to death in her hotel room, Brooks and Devlin immediately suspect a case of blackmail, when £4,000 and a log of payments are found in the woman's bedside table. Suspicion falls on the hotel porter, who was conveniently out of the building at the time - but a secret relationship between a respected male practitioner and the escort comes to light, and soon leads Thorne and Phillips to believe that the jealous wife of the practitioner is prepared to frame her husband, as his meetings with the escort have led to her son being born brain-damaged, caused by an STD which the husband contracted from the escort, and in turn gave to his wife.

Episode 4 "Tick Tock"

While investigating the shooting of two innocent bystanders in a local nightclub, Brooks and Devlin's night goes from bad to worse when they realize have a possible hostage situation in their hands. Then they are called to a third shooting of a local off-licence attendant by a pair of burglars wearing rubber face masks. When a fourth body is found - the owner of the nightclub - suspicion falls on a mentally unstable Iraq War veteran Andy Bishop - and when the team finally catch up with Andy, things take a terrible turn when he is shot by his girlfriend. When the case comes to trial, the court has to decide: Was she a terrified victim who killed her abuser, or a willing participant in the crimes?

Episode 5 "Intent"

A housekeeper arrives to find her employers dead, Brooks and Devlin begin an investigation into the murder of David and Elaine Lerner, who had only moved into the house six months ago, and had been doing it up as their dream home for when they retired. When they struggle to find a motive for the killing, their line of investigation soon turns to the previous owners of the house, ex-husband and wife Camilla Mallon (Anna Wilson-Jones) and Lucas Boyd (Samuel West) after discovering that they were part of a major hedge fund scam several years back. When CCTV footage puts Boyd in the area at the time of the killing, they discover that his fingerprints match the one found in Elaine's blood. Boyd, drunk at the wheel of his car, crashed the vehicle while turning a corner, banging his head, and mistakenly returned his old house - and brutally stabbed the Lerners. Thorne and Phillips press for a murder charge, while faced with Jake’s old mentor Margaret Rumsfield (Jill Baker), who argues that the accused should face only manslaughter charges.

Episode 6 "Deal"

Mother-of-one Lia Brown is found shot in her bed, suspicion immediately falls on to her boyfriend, who struggles with MS and has to take medicinal cannabis to help his condition. However, when it is discovered that the bullet was fired from over 100 metres away, Kaden Blake, the thirteen-year-old son of a known addict, comes into the firing line. He claims that he was told to kill his friend Chase Wade, and that when he first fired the gun, he missed Chase and the bullet flew through the air and into Lia's flat, killing her. When it is discovered he was under the instructions of Mark Ellis, a long time criminal and well-known drug dealer, who the police have previously failed to bring to justice, Jake and Alesha offer Kaden a reduced sentence in order to bring Ellis to justice. It soon transpires that Kaden's mother, who is addicted to crack, sold her son to Ellis in exchange for free drugs, and that Ellis had been torturing the boy and making him run illegal errands. Ellis is soon taken to court and found guilty of illegal imprisonment, possession of class A drugs and GBH. Kaden is also given a sentence in a young offender's institution, but after being released from court, he finds himself in the firing line of an armed man driving a 4x4. Devlin manages to spot the gunman, and in an attempt to save Kaden, takes a bullet for him...

                                       The Broken Hearts Gallery (2020) - Cinema (Film)

The second of two cinema trips in the month and a quirky rom-com, which I quite enjoyed. Not rushing to get the DVD or anything when it comes out, but it kept my attention and I could relate to some of the pain.

Who hasn't ever had their heart-broken? No-one, well maybe Donald Trump but that's because he doesn't possess one.

From Google....

What if you saved a souvenir from every relationship you've ever been in? The Broken Hearts Gallery follows the always unique Lucy, a 20-something art gallery assistant living in New York City, who also happens to be an emotional hoarder.

Monday 12 October 2020





The minute the dame walked up to Logan, he smelt trouble. A real looker, with tons of money and a daddy who liked to spoil her. She asked him to investigate a threatening note whose message was clear, keep your mouth shut or die. The first day on the job its fatal warning comes true, and the woman is murdered, or so it seems. Very shortly he discovers that it wasn’t the woman at all, but someone who looked very much like her. Twists and turns abound as Logan’s investigation leads him through a labyrinth of blackmail, mobs, and of course murder!

Anything Short of Murder is a mystery written in the style of the pulp detective thrillers of the 1930s. It follows the investigation of a former LAPD cop who sets up shop in Hollywood during its golden era, when movies began to talk and studio heads were kings.

An okay book, but one which long before the end I had started to find irritating.

Hollywood, 30s, films, a PI, threats, deaths, blackmail, doppelgangers - multiple, an Irish cop, a dual investigation, boredom, annoyance, a headache, bleeding ears, the end, relief.  

I'm probably being overly harsh and maybe it's me and not the book, but I just didn't vibe any of the characters, other than the Irish cop who seemed quite happy to let Logan, our PI and main character do most of the heavy lifting here. I wasn't that interested in the case, or the victim(s), ergo the investigation and the outcome.  

It's quite a busy book with a lot happening but none of it was particularly exciting for me. The writing is okay and captures the mood of the time. The pace is alright and I've undoubtedly read books that I've enjoyed less, I just couldn't get on with the main man.

The final reveal where Logan sits all the players - cops, suspects, victims and witnesses and pontificates endlessly showing them all what a clever so and so he is was the final straw for me. As he makes the big reveal, someone grabs a gun and unloads, unfortunately not at Logan. It's been a long while since I read a book where the protagonist has such a high opinion of himself. Pity he wasn't made of chocolate, as he could have eaten himself in chapter one and spared me all that followed.

2 from 5

Read - (listened to) October, 2020

Published - 2010

Page count - 293 (7 hrs 1 min)

Source - Audible purchase

Format - Audible

Sunday 11 October 2020


 A bit of a mixed bag this month with some more literary elements along with the usual bag of crime....

                   Carson McCullers - The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1940) - charity shop purchase

I think I've picked up and put back down this book more times over the past twenty years browsing in book and charity shops than any other book. 

Beauty, compassion, tenderness ...... I think we could all do with a bit more of that in these difficult days....


With the publication of her first novel, THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER, Carson McCullers, all of twenty-three, became a literary sensation. With its profound sense of moral isolation and its compassionate glimpses into its characters' inner lives, the novel is considered McCullers' finest work, an enduring masterpiece first published by Houghton Mifflin in 1940. At its center is the deaf-mute John Singer, who becomes the confidant for all various types of misfits in a Georgia mill town during the 1930s. Each one yearns for escape from small town life. When Singer's mute companion goes insane, Singer moves into the Kelly house, where Mick Kelly, the book's heroine (and loosely based on McCullers), finds solace in her music. Wonderfully attune to the spiritual isolation that underlies the human condition, and with a deft sense for racial tensions in the South, McCullers spins a haunting, unforgettable story that gives voice to the rejected, the forgotten, and the mistreated -- and, through Mick Kelly, gives voice to the quiet, intensely personal search for beauty.

Richard Wright praised Carson McCullers for her ability "to rise above the pressures of her environment and embrace white and black humanity in one sweep of apprehension and tenderness." She writes "with a sweep and certainty that are overwhelming," said the NEW YORK TIMES. McCullers became an overnight literary sensation, but her novel has endured, just as timely and powerful today as when it was first published. THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER is Carson McCullers at her most compassionate, endearing best.

                             Margaret Atwood - The Testaments (2019) - purchased copy

I'm a massive fan of the TV adaptation of Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. I hope to enjoy both the first book of the same name and this sequel, before too long. Definitely before another series airs on the box. I think one was in the pipeline but has been delayed due to Covid.



More than fifteen years after the events of The Handmaid's Tale, the theocratic regime of the Republic of Gilead maintains its grip on power, but there are signs it is beginning to rot from within. At this crucial moment, the lives of three radically different women converge, with potentially explosive results.
Two have grown up as part of the first generation to come of age in the new order. The testimonies of these two young women are joined by a third: Aunt Lydia.  Her complex past and uncertain future unfold in surprising and pivotal ways.
With The Testaments, Margaret Atwood opens up the innermost workings of Gilead, as each woman is forced to come to terms with who she is, and how far she will go for what she believes.

The Testaments is a modern masterpiece, a powerful novel that can be read on its own or as a companion to Margaret Atwood’s classic, The Handmaid’s Tale.

                                Robert White - Dead Cat Bounce (2019) - purchased copy

Billy bargain direct from publisher - Fahrenheit Press


Old Mrs Bello lived above the family grocery store all her life, she worked hard, was frugal and lived an ordinary life. There was one thing that people knew about Mrs B though - she absolutely didn’t trust banks.

When she died at the age of 88 there was only one question on everyone’s lips – what happened to the family money?

Despite frantic searching from her surviving relatives, not a single cent was ever found and the missing family fortune passed into local legend.

Butchie Parmenter doesn’t believe in legends.

Experience has taught Butchie not to believe in anything except himself, so when good fortune unexpectedly lands at his feet he grabs the opportunity with both hands, determined not to let go. No matter what.

Butchie should have figured that nothing worth having ever comes easy and if something looks too good to be true, it usually is.

                                 P Moss - The Houdini Killer (2020) - review copy received

Confession time, P Moss is one of those authors whose books I buy but never seem to ever actually get around to reading..... Vegas Knockout, Blue Vegas - I'll break my duck this time around!



Competing for headlines with notorious serial killer Son of Sam in 1977, twenty-three-year-old Evie Eastway escalates her vigilante murder spree and is dubbed the Houdini Killer by the tabloids because of her uncanny ability to avoid capture. While Son of Sam is feared, Hero Houdini graffiti begins to appear all over New York City after Evie pulls the trigger on a Wall Street banker who looted a blue-collar pension fund. As Evie's lust for blood and headlines intensifies she falls in love with the police lieutenant in command of the task force assigned to capture her, but keeping him from discovering her secret proves difficult and it is not long before she finds herself in the crosshairs of an explosive showdown.

                                        Andrew Vachss - Haiku (2009) - purchased copy

Sometime late 80s/early 90s I discovered Andrew Vachss and his crime fiction series featuring Burke and I was rapt. He was one of those authors whose books I bought when they came out, even if it meant a trip to London and the Murder One Bookshop on Charing Cross Road. I absolutely loved the hard-boiled series about an off the grid righter of wrongs. Somewhere in the past twenty years I kind of got distracted from reading Vachss even though I had never stopped enjoying his books. 

Time to see if he still possesses the magic to hook me.


From the author of the acclaimed Burke series: a searing new novel that follows a band of homeless outcasts on a mission to recover what each has lost.

Ho is an ancient sensei who began training as a child, until war changed him forever. When his dismissive arrogance causes the death of a student he called 'daughter,' Ho renounces not only his possessions but also his role as master, roaming the streets of an always-cold city in search of a way to atone. As if magnetized, a group slowly forms around him: Michael, an addicted gambler who finally lost himself; Ranger, a psychotic Vietnam veteran for whom reality is an ever-revolving door; Lamont, once a fearless street-gang warlord who degenerated into hopeless alcoholism when the literati who discovered his poetry discarded him; Target, a relentless 'clanger' who speaks only by echoing speech sounds; and Brewster, an obsessive collector of 1950s 'hardboiled' paperbacks whose stash is housed in an abandoned building even vermin avoid.

Late one night, Michael spots a woman in a white Rolls-Royce throwing something into the river. Convinced that the woman is a perfect blackmail target, he attempts to recruit the others to search for her. But what transforms a halfhearted effort into a mission is the news that the building housing Brewster's 'library' is slated for demolition. Knowing that Brewster could not possibly survive such a loss is enough to bring them together in a search for the ultimate problem-solver: money.

Each frantic knock opens another barred door as demolition draws nearer. And the answers to each man's questions trigger shocking explosions that hit you with all the visceral power we have come to expect from this fierce and dynamic writer.

                             Jonathan MacPherson - Outback Creed (2017) - purchased copy

New-to-me author and a speculative punt in the dark, though at under a pound not too much of a risk taken. I like Aussie set crime fiction, I like the premise of the book and it's not over-long at less than 200 pages.


An intense thriller, loaded with action and shocking twists you will not see coming.

A lawyer vacationing in the outback becomes a target in a high-stakes conspiracy.

A Billion dollar mining deal. 

Dirty cops.

Crooked politicians.

Lawyer Tom McLaren makes a trip to the outback, where he hopes to talk an Aboriginal community into giving up their land to his client, a mining magnate. Negotiations prove difficult and lengthy, and Tom and his colleagues take a weekend trip deep into the outback, where they hope to get some fresh ideas. 

To their horror, they become caught in a dangerous altercation with a deranged gunman, and their trip soon becomes a nightmare.

The men are forced to flee separately. Tom is fortunate enough to be accompanied by an Aboriginal boy, who guides him safely into a small town. There, Tom learns of a conspiracy involving the mining company, and both he and the boy become targets. 

The mastermind behind the scheme remains an enigma. What is clear is that crooked cops and a deadly assassin are on the payroll, and they will stop at nothing to see the job through and eliminate all possible witnesses-including Tom.