Monday, 27 September 2021

YOEL BEREKET - A BOLSHEVIK CHRISTMAS (2019)

Synopsis/blurb ....

What happens when the world's most beloved holiday falls into the hands of communists?

Life in the North Pole isn’t quite what it’s cracked up to be. Ever since Santa and his toy sweatshop moved into town, it’s been nothing but back-breaking labor for the native elves. In the factory the air is hot, the pay low, the food lukewarm. Suffering under the thumb of capitalism and a dictator grown fat and indifferent, the elves have had enough.

When all hope seems lost, a rebel by the name of The Red Elf hears the cry of the people and drives them toward a revolution.

Overnight, the Santa of old is gone, replaced by a Soviet strongman named Nikolas Sokolov. From the production of weapons to the invasion of malls, world domination is in the Red Army’s grasp. However, with the Americans unwilling to give up their favorite day so easily, the battle over the holiday season becomes the new hotbed of the Cold War, leaving everybody to wonder what will happen to Christmas…

Three months early, or nine months late. Take your pick.

Author Yoel Bereket serves up a satirical take on Christmas, revolution, Communism, Capitalism, religion, economic systems. the Cold War, power struggles, tyranny, the oppression of workers, exploitation, profit, corporate greed, control.

Set in the early 60s, Kennedy and Krushchev do battle by proxy at the North Pole. We have a fleeting appearance from Big Fat Santa and he ain't quite such a lovable beast here. Other political figures of the day - Charles de Gaulle and Harold Macmillan - make fleeting appearances. The main characters involved though are the downtrodden elves and a revolving door of new masters.

Amusing, interesting and more than a kernel of truth in the observation that when power structures and the hierarchy changes at the top, little does for those on the bottom rung of the ladder. Exploitation rules.

Events jump around a bit and we go fast forward on a few occasions, but I enjoyed it without ever feeling like I was reading the best story ever written. Decent writing. A quick read which kind of ends exactly where we started,  

3 from 5

Read - September, 2021

Published - 2019

Page count - 249

Source - purchased copy

Format - Kindle


 

Sunday, 26 September 2021

COLIN CONWAY - STRAIT TO HELL (2021)


Synopsis/blurb ...

Rule #2 – No attachments.

Sam Strait didn’t want to leave home early for the snowbird season, but the rules he lived his life by demanded it. When a relationship turned sour, the rules dictated he pack his bags and get out of town.

He could have gone anywhere in the world, but Sam picked Phoenix, Arizona. With its beautiful women, fall baseball league, and warm winters, what more could a single guy ask for?

When the death of a new friend brings violent strangers into his life, Sam is forced to make a choice—run out of town or find a killer.

If he were smart, he’d adhere to the second rule, but there’s a beautiful woman in the mix. Soon, Sam is racing across the California desert with a band of outlaws on his heels. He’s must find the killer quick before there’s never a chance to leave.

Strait to Hell is the second book in an exciting new series from the author of the 509 Crime Stories and the co-author of the Charlie-316 series. If you like your crime fiction with a dose of humor, then pick up this book today.

Strait to Hell was an enjoyable second read in author Colin Conway's Sam Strait series. Strait Over Tackle was enjoyed back in July. I remarked then than while I enjoyed the lighter, humorous touches in that one, I didn't think Sam Strait was my favourite series character from this author. Strait to Hell reinforced that assessment. 

Nothing in the book irritated or annoyed me, but I just don't find myself particularly warming to the main character. Strait is a snowbird. (Definition - a northern US inhabitant who decamps to warmer climes during winter.) Strait is single, retired, an ex-deputy, financially comfortable and he lives his life by a set of rules. The most important of which seems to be - don't form attachments to the opposite sex. He does struggle with this rule, as he becomes involved with a woman in this one. (This kinda happens in the first book as well, so it's a rule that Sam is constantly re-evaluating.) There's nothing objectionable about the character, but maybe someone that eschews commitment is a little less trustworthy or sympathetic to me. I suppose indifference is my main emotion and if you don't especially care about a character and what happens to them, the mystery and events in the book matter less.

One of Strait's new found friends in Phoenix, gets killed and somewhat bizarrely Strait gets three separate visits from contacts of the deceased, asking, threatening and cajoling him into finding something that the dead man had been trying to track down. Reluctantly Strait, instead of fleeing town decides to do what is requested. Maybe if he can find 'Rotor' - whoever or whatever it is - he'll get answers as to who killed his friend which will satisfy him and his deceased friend's relatives, including the dead man's niece, his current (not-too-serious) partner. And there'll be a some justice served.  

I enjoyed how the story unfolded and the efforts Sam and his girlfriend (don't call her that) made to get to the bottom of things. For someone who wasn't a cop for too long, and never a detective, Sam has a decent head for investigating. He works independently of the cops here, but with their tacit agreement. He takes a few licks in this one, but not as many as last time and he shows admirable people management and negotiating skills to get his three competing motivators onboard with his plans. 

We get answers in the end, though maybe the real question is still unanswered - does Strait finally kick his no commitment rule to the kerb? 

Decent pace, decent mystery, plenty of humour - but no real belly laughs as such. I did like the setting and the road trips through the desert to Hell (a real place apparently). More to like than dislike.

3 from 5

Read - September, 2021
Published - 2021
Page count - 320
Source - review copy from author
Format - Kindle

Saturday, 25 September 2021

TOM LARSEN - GOING SOUTH (2021)

 


Synopsis/blurb ...

Harry wants out. The daily grind has ground him down and his dreams are fading fast. Desperate times call for desperate measures and as a last-ditch resort he fakes his own death to claim on the insurance planning to set himself up on Easy Street. Wife Lena has her doubts. Harry’s always had a hand in the hustle, but going for broke was never his style. She goes along for the ride just to see how far he’ll take it, down Mexico way, returning “widowed” and soon-to-be wealthy, waits out the weeks till they can reunite. Only Harry sounds funny on the phone. And she knows how he gets when he’s been drinking. Then there’s the irreversible nature of death to consider. Harry’s scheme is seamless but the schemer has a flaw, and instead of getting what he wants might just get what he deserves.

Going South is a dark, dark tale. A husband and wife team act out a plan to fake Harry's death and bag the million dollar insurance on his death. Harry is enthusiastic, Lena less so. Life has worn Harry down; crushed ambition, unfulfilling employment, along with a propensity for choosing the wrong teams or animals to bet on. Lena has a combative relationship with the authority figures at her hospital and after talking herself out of a job, reluctantly agrees with the scheme.

Go to Mexico, tick. Find a patsy, tick. Kill him, tick. Fool the authorities, tick (maybe). Cremate the corpse, tick. Male half hides out, tick. Female half carries the weight of acting the bereaved widow, fooling the relatives, friends and neighbours, claiming the money and generally dealing with the fall out of Harry's death - tick.

The wheels fall off. A big misunderstanding leads to a downward spiral of alcohol abuse, guilt, self-pity and further reckless actions .... more death, mistrust between the two parties, lies, deceit, and a schism in a previously rock-solid relationship. Our ill-conceived plan leads to unintended consequences and a total lack of the envisaged happy ever after, dream life. Going South all the way.

Cracking premise for a story with interesting, well developed main characters. Harry is pretty unsympathetic throughout. You do wonder what Lena sees in him. She herself, despite buying into Harry's reckless scheme, retained my sympathy throughout. She's the adult in the relationship. Capable, caring, practical. I think Larsen illustrates firmly which is the stronger of the sexes. 

Interesting twists throughout the book. There's a certain inevitability about the outcome, but it was satisfying regardless and not wholly predictable in every aspect. For the most part I really liked it. There were a few times the book seemed a bit slow and saggy, but I don't know if I was just tired and not really vibing a black, dark read. I had to set it aside a couple of times and give myself a break from it, before returning to it fresh.

Overall - really good.

4 from 5

I'd be interested in seeing what the author does next. 
Read - September, 2021
Published - 2021
Page count - 327
Source- review copy from publisher Dark Edge Press
Format - Kindle


Friday, 24 September 2021

2 BY ANTTI TUOMAINEN

A bit more Scandi crime to enjoy at some point in the not too distant future - two from Antti Tuomainen - Finland's answer to Carl Hiaasen apparently.





Antti has written seven novels thus far, including the soon to be released - The Rabbit Factor 

An insurance mathematician’s carefully ordered life is turned on its head when he unexpectedly loses his job and inherits an adventure park … with a whole host of problems. A quirky, tense and warmly funny thriller from award-winning Finnish author Antti Tuomainen.

Just one spreadsheet away from chaos…

What makes life perfect? Insurance mathematician Henri Koskinen knows the answer because he calculates everything down to the very last decimal.

And then, for the first time, Henri is faced with the incalculable. After suddenly losing his job, Henri inherits an adventure park from his brother – its peculiar employees and troubling financial problems included. The worst of the financial issues appear to originate from big loans taken from criminal quarters … and some dangerous men are very keen to get their money back.

But what Henri really can’t compute is love. In the adventure park, Henri crosses paths with Laura, an artist with a chequered past, and a joie de vivre and erratic lifestyle that bewilders him. As the criminals go to extreme lengths to collect their debts and as Henri's relationship with Laura deepens, he finds himself faced with situations and emotions that simply cannot be pinned down on his spreadsheets…

Warmly funny, rich with quirky characters and absurd situations, The Rabbit Factor is a triumph of a dark thriller, its tension matched only by its ability to make us rejoice in the beauty and random nature of life.

I have high hopes of reading them all.  


Full list for completists (like me) .....

The Healer (2013)
Dark As My Heart (2015)
The Mine (2016)
The Man Who Died (2017)
Palm Beach, Finland (2018)
Little Siberia (2019)
The Rabbit Factor (2021)


The Man Who Died (2017)

When Finnish mushroom entrepreneur Jaakko discovers that he has been slowly poisoned, he sets out to find his would-be murderer ... with dark and hilarious results. The critically acclaimed standalone thriller from the King of Helsinki Noir...

***Shortlisted for the Petrona Award for Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year***

***Shortlisted for the CrimeFest Last Laugh Award***

'Right up there with the best' Times Literary Supplement

'Deftly plotted, poignant and perceptive in its wry reflections on mortality and very funny' Irish Times

'Told in a darkly funny, deadpan style ... The result is a rollercoaster read in which the farce has some serious and surprisingly philosophical underpinnings' Guardian

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

A successful entrepreneur in the mushroom industry, Jaakko Kaunismaa is a man in his prime. At just thirty-seven years of age, he is shocked when his doctor tells him that he's dying. What's more, the cause is discovered to be prolonged exposure to toxins; in other words, someone has slowly but surely been poisoning him.

Determined to find out who wants him dead, Jaakko embarks on a suspenseful rollercoaster journey full of unusual characters, bizarre situations and unexpected twists.

With a nod to Fargo and the best elements of the Scandinavian noir tradition, The Man Who Died is a page-turning thriller brimming with the blackest comedy surrounding life and death, and love and betrayal, marking a stunning new departure for the King of Helsinki Noir.


Palm Beach, Finland (2018)

Fargo meets Baywatch in a mesmerisingly dark, poignant comedy-thriller by the King of Helsinki Noir

'A roller-coaster read and extraordinarily poignant' Guardian 

'Tuomainen is the funniest writer in Europe' Marcel Berlins, The Times

Sex, lies and ill-fitting swimwear ... Sun Protection Factor 100

Jan Nyman, the ace detective of the covert operations unit of the National Central Police, is sent to a sleepy seaside town to investigate a mysterious death. Nyman arrives in the town dominated by a bizarre holiday village - the 'hottest beach in Finland'. The suspect: Olivia Koski, who has only recently returned to her old hometown. The mission: find out what happened, by any means necessary.

With a nod to Fargo, and dark noir, Palm Beach, Finland is both a page-turning thriller and a black comedy about lust for money, fleeing dreams and people struggling at turning points in their lives - chasing their fantasies regardless of reason.

'A roller-coaster read and extraordinarily poignant' Guardian

Thursday, 23 September 2021

AGATHA CHRISTIE - ONE, TWO, BUCKLE MY SHOE (1940)

 


Synopsis/blurb ...

The dentist was found with a blackened hole below his right temple. A pistol lay on the floor near his out-flung right hand. Later, one of his patients was found dead from a lethal dose of local anaesthetic. It's a clear case of murder and suicide. But why would a dentist commit a crime in the middle of a busy day of appointments? A shoe buckle holds the key to the mystery. Now, in the words of the rhyme, can Poirot pick up the sticks and lay them straight?

Another venture into the Christie-Poirot catalogue and one that I liked, but not as much as Death in the Clouds. I think my issue here is the sneaky way Christie/Poirot unmask the killer with a revelation of information which has been up until then withheld from the reader. I don't even think there were that many subtle hints prior to that, but hey maybe someone will tell me I'm wrong and what I missed. The mystery is quite complex and convoluted overall, but I kind of think the reveal annoyed more than enlightened me.

A dentist and another man are found dead. One murdered, one maybe suicide - but obviously not. Poirot does his thing, investigating everyone who was in the vicinity of the practice on that fateful day. Before the end there will be more death and a couple of shootings/attempted shootings.

The guilty could be employees of the dentist - present and absent, Poirot himself, a discontented (and feckless) youth, an important Government adviser and financier and a few others I have forgotten. We get into the realms of spies, agitators, missing women, relationships, a body in a trunk, interviews, misdirection and red herrings and eventually an outcome.

Overall more to like than dislike, but just bang average and I kind of felt a bit like I'd been mugged at the end.

3 from 5

My fifth Christie in the past couple of months following, Death in the Clouds, They Do It With Mirrors, The Pale Horse and Endless Night.       

Read - (listened to) September, 2021
Published - 1940
Page count - 257 (5 hrs 19 mins)
Source - Audible copy via Scribd
Format - Audible

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

LARRY D. SWEAZY - WINTER SEEKS OUT THE LONELY (2021)


 

Synopsis/blurb ...

"The law and circumstances never leave Sonny Burton alone for long. As the Great Depression lingers, a circus camps outside of Wellington, bringing with it suspicion and rumors of stolen cattle to feed the animals. The local Texas Ranger office is set to close, pushing Sonny's son, Jesse, out of a job. And Aldo Hernandez shows up on Sonny's doorstep asking for help. Aldo's cousin, Rafael, got into a fight and caused another man, Leo Dozier, to lose his spot in the CCC (Civilian Conversation Corps). Aldo thinks the sheriff is behind the trouble, and Sonny agrees to look into the situation-which thrusts him and Jesse into an investigation that exposes unknown corruption in his small town, and bigotry and hate that leads to a string of brutal murders. Edith Grantley has written Sonny several letters and has not received any answers. She is encouraged by one of her boarders to make the five-hundred-mile drive north to find out where she stands with Sonny after their brief relationship. On the way, Edith encounters a man set on terrorizing her for the entire journey. A cat and mouse game of survival ensues, and Edith is left to consider how much she really cares for Sonny, whether her feelings are worth pursuing, and if her life is worth risking her heart for. As Sonny and Edith reach out for each over the miles, they are both confronted by their fears, life and death situations, and an unforgiving world that seems intent on keeping them apart forever"-

Winter Seeks Out the Lonely is a smashing end to author Larry D. Sweazy's Sonny Burton trilogy. Burton is a one-armed, widowed and retired ex-war veteran and ex-Texas Ranger, who just can't help getting dragged back into mystery and murder in mid-30s depression era Texas.

Here we have a dual narrative. Burton is asked by a Hispanic friend to make enquiries regarding his relative who has been locked up. Aldo Hernandez is concerned for his cousin, who has been caught up in the local sheriff's scheming. A fight with a white man has him fearing he will get railroaded. Sonny reluctantly decides to do what he can for the man and upsets the sheriff as a result. Other happenings occur and a bad situation gets worse. 

In the meantime, a widow, Edith Grantley who found comfort with Sonny in the previous series entry has decided to take the bull by the horns and find out whether she and Sonny can find love and a future together at a relatively late time in their lives, or whether solitary and unfulfilled twilight years beckon. A perilous journey fraught with danger stands between her and fulfillment or rejection.

Throw a travelling circus into the mix and we have heady stew of racism, discrimination, desperation, poverty, scapegoat-ery, isolation, family strife and violence; offset by generosity, kindness, decency, bravery, friendship and care.

There's a fantastic sense of place and history, supplemented by a cast of damaged and injured characters who retain the best traits and behaviours that humanity has to offer. A difficult time of depression is richly described and brought to life by Sweazy.

I think I liked this one best of all out of the three Sonny Burton books. No breakneck pace, plenty of excitement, tension and incident and an outcome that didn't diappoint, populated by characters who you care about and feel an emotional investment about what happens to them.

Ticks in all the boxes.

5 from 5  

Larry D. Sweazy has been enjoyed several times before. The first two Sonny Burton books - A Thousand Falling Crows and The Lost are the Last to Die. A standalone novel Where I Can See You  and the first two in his excellent Majorie Trumaine series - See Also Murder and See Also Deception

Read - September, 2021 
Published - 2021
Page count - 290
Source - review copy from author
Format - PDF read on laptop

Tuesday, 21 September 2021

AGATHA CHRISTIE - ENDLESS NIGHT (1967)

 


Synopsis/blurb ...

Gipsy's Acre was a truly beautiful upland site with views out to sea, and in Michael Rogers it stirred a child-like fantasy. There, amongst the dark fir trees, he planned to build a house, find a girl, and live happily ever after. But as he left the village, a shadow of menace hung over the land, for this was the place where accidents happened. Perhaps Michael should have heeded the locals' warnings: "There's no luck for them as meddles with Gipsy's Acre." Michael Rogers is a man who is about to learn the true meaning of the old saying "In my end is my beginning".

My fourth outing with Dame Agatha in August, after managing to easily ignore her for over forty years and I found listening to Hugh Fraser narrate Endless Night a really enjoyable experience. 

Great story (which I kind of find hard to write about without giving the game away), great writing, interesting characters, a few twists and turns, a few unexpected events, a decent climax. What more does anyone want from a book?

Love, romance, family, marriage, money, schemes, secrets, evil - put them in a mixing bowl and give them a stir. 

I think my pre-conceived notions about being bored senseless by Christie's work have been firmly shot down. What's the saying - 'there's no fool like an old fool' - that'll be me then.

4 from 5

The Pale Horse, They Do It With Mirrors and Death in the Clouds were all enjoyed prior to this. Me and Agatha will be crossing paths again in the future. 

Read - (listened to) August, 2021
Published - 1967
Page count - 259 (6 hrs 13 mins)
Source - Audible copy from Scribd
Format - Audible

Monday, 20 September 2021

S. A. COSBY - BLACKTOP WASTELAND (2020)

 


Synopsis/blurb ...

A husband, a father, a son, a business owner...And the best getaway driver east of the Mississippi.

Beauregard “Bug” Montage is an honest mechanic, a loving husband, and a hard-working dad. Bug knows there’s no future in the man he used to be: known from the hills of North Carolina to the beaches of Florida as the best wheelman on the East Coast.

He thought he'd left all that behind him, but as his carefully built new life begins to crumble, he finds himself drawn inexorably back into a world of blood and bullets. When a smooth-talking former associate comes calling with a can't-miss jewelry store heist, Bug feels he has no choice but to get back in the driver's seat. And Bug is at his best where the scent of gasoline mixes with the smell of fear.

Haunted by the ghost of who he used to be and the father who disappeared when he needed him most, Bug must find a way to navigate this blacktop wasteland...or die trying.

Like Ocean’s Eleven meets Drive, with a Southern noir twist, S. A. Cosby’s Blacktop Wasteland is a searing, operatic story of a man pushed to his limits by poverty, race, and his own former life of crime.

My second encounter with S. A. Cosby, after reading My Darkest Prayer a year or two ago. Subsequent to reading Blacktop Wasteland, I did enjoy his latest offering - Razorblade Tears. Once I had gotten my breath back that was. 

Blacktop Wasteland was one of those books, I was so looking forward to reading, but kept putting off actually doing so for a year. I'm quite strange in that I enjoy the anticipation of reading a book I think will be excellent, not as much as reading it of course, but still a bit of delayed gratification doesn't do me any harm. I may have to re-evaluate that approach as I get older for fear of missing out altogether.

Was it worth the wait then? Abso-bloody-lutely. Really, really good. So good, I will have difficulty articulating just what it was exactly that I loved about it. 

I'll have a go though.... story, characters, pacing, conflict, dilemnas, family, ghosts of family, history, regrets, mistakes, Hobson's choice, decisions, necessity, loyalty, support, trust, betrayal, violence, opportunity, and outcome.

I love a bit of outlaw fiction with good people forced to make hard choices due to economic pressures. Cosby sets up the story in such a fashion, that his main man Bug is left with little option other than reverting to one last job. That said he does have an alternative, but to choose it would be an anathema to his soul. Stubborn, obstinate, hard-hearted, talented, resourceful, capable, and intelligent. He's not a man to be pushed around.

I enjoyed the planning and execution of the job. I liked Bug's issues with his partners and the dynamics between them all. There's an inevitability about things going pear-shaped and Bug finding himself with a massive target on his back. More issues to contend with. Another job to execute and another bigger hole to dig oneself out of.

I found Blacktop Wasteland to be fast-moving, gripping, exciting, tense and extremely satisfying. If I had one eeny weeny criticism, it would be that for an intelligent man, Bug was just a little bit naive in some of his dealings during the book. I thought he was a bit too savvy to get suckered how he did.

4.5 from 5

I look forward to whatever Shawn Cosby does next (and maybe I'll read it as soon as I get the chance). 

Read - August, 2021
Published - 2020
Page count - 308
Source - purchased copy
Format - hardback


Sunday, 19 September 2021

AGATHA CHRISTIE - DEATH IN THE CLOUDS (1935)


Synopsis/blurb ...

A woman is killed by a poisoned dart in the enclosed confines of a commercial passenger plane…

From seat No.9, Hercule Poirot was ideally placed to observe his fellow air passengers. Over to his right sat a pretty young woman, clearly infatuated with the man opposite; ahead, in seat No.13, sat a Countess with a poorly-concealed cocaine habit; across the gangway in seat No.8, a detective writer was being troubled by an aggressive wasp.

What Poirot did not yet realize was that behind him, in seat No.2, sat the slumped, lifeless body of a woman.

Another enjoyable Agatha Christie outing courtesy of a smooth narration from Hugh Fraser.
Death in the Clouds was my first Christie outing featuring Hercule Poirot and without being blown away by the prose, I definitely think I'll be back for more in the future. (Already have been in fact.)

Poirot investigates the suspicious death of a French business woman, who appears to have been killed by a poison dart whilst a passenger on a plane from France to London. Poirot himself is a passenger on the same flight and is one of a small number of people who could conceivably have killed her.

Cue an inquest and an investigation by Poirot, in conjunction with the British and French police. Through the course of the enquiries we discover more about the victim, namely her business and her family background as well as those of and her fellow passengers and the crew members. 

Motives are uncovered, connections are discovered, allies are enlisted and traps are set. No one gets away with murder on Poirot's watch. I quite liked how this one unfolded. I enjoyed finding out about the different cast of characters; their misfortunes and woes, their careers, their difficulties, their liaisons, their secrets, their weaknesses and the identity of the one who was prepared to murder to achieve his/her ends.

I think the TV adaptations have unfairly soured me on Poirot. Rightly or wrongly, I had him pegged as arrogant, which is not an attractive characteristic. Here he comes across as amiable and quite friendly and I found him better company than I expected to.

I liked the story and found the reveal plausible, but I defy any to reach the same conclusion as Poirot and for the same reasons. By guesswork, maybe. A lot of information is known only to Poirot until the end. I don't think it spoiled anything for me, I was happy to sit back and listen to it all unfold.

4 from 5

The Pale Horse and They Do It With Mirrors were also enjoyed in the same month. As was Endless Night.

Read - (listened to) August, 2021
Published - 1935
Page count - 274 (6 hrs 18 mins)
Source - Audible copy from Scribd
Format - Audible

Friday, 17 September 2021

2 BY ARNALDUR INDRIDASON

A couple from Icelandic author Arnaldur Indridason ....


Scandi crime is one of those genres within the wide trope of crime and mystery fiction that I've dipped into occasionally, but more often than not steered clear of. I don't know whether I subconsciously equate books from this part of the world with snow, ice, cold and isolation and I avoid it as a result. I'd rather be hot than cold!




These two are the 8th and 9th entries in his Inspector Erlendur series (11 in total to date).

I've read a couple years ago and enjoyed them - The Draining Lake in 2013 and Jar City I think before that - and hold lofty ambitions of one day completing the series. Don't hold your breath though ....

The full Erlendur series is...  

1. Jar City (2004) aka Tainted Blood
2. Silence of the Grave (2005)
3. Voices (2006)
4. The Draining Lake (2007)
5. Arctic Chill (2008)
6. Hypothermia (2009)
7. Outrage (2011)
8. Black Skies (2012)
9. Strange Shores (2013)
10. Reykjavik Nights (2014)
11. Oblivion (2015)

The author has written a few other books as well - a two book series (Flovent and Thorsen - The Shadow District and The Shadow Killer books), a standalone (Operation Napoleon) and a new series which has just been released this year - The Darkness Knows (Detective Konrad)

Time to get my reading skates on.

Black Skies (2012)

A man is making a crude leather mask with slits for eyes and mouth, and an iron spike fixed in the middle of the forehead. It is a 'death mask', once used by Icelandic farmers to slaughter calves. He has revenge in mind. Meanwhile, with Detective Erlendur absent, his baseball-loving colleague Sigurdur Oli is in the spotlight. A school reunion has left Sigurdur Oli dissatisfied with life in the police force. Iceland is enjoying an economic boom and young tycoons are busy partying with the international jet set. In contrast, Sigurdur Oli's relationship is on the rocks and soon even his position in the CID is compromised: when he agrees to visit a couple of blackmailers as a favour to a friend he walks in just as a woman is beaten unconscious. When she dies, Sigurdur Oli has a murder investigation on his hands. The evidence leads to debt collectors, extortionists, swinging parties. But when a chance link connects these enquiries to the activities of a group of young bankers, Sigurdur Oli finds himself investigating the very elite he had envied. Moving from the villas of Reykjavik's banking elite to a sordid basement flat, "Black Skies" is a superb story of greed, pride and murder from one of Europe's most successful crime writers.


Strange Shores (2013)

"Arnaldur Indridason is already an international literary phenom—and it's easy to see why. His novels are gripping, authentic, haunting, and lyrical. I can't wait for the next."—Harlan Coben 

The preceding description of Arnaldur Indridason's crime novels is right on target—Indridason's beloved series detective Inspector Erlendur has captured the imaginations of suspense fiction readers all over the globe. Published now in 26 countries around the world, Inspector Erlendur joins Maigret, Morse, Wallander, and a handful of other world-famous policemen who provide must-reading for suspense fans everywhere.

In this latest puzzle Inspector Erlendur learns of the baffling story of Matthildur, a local woman who went missing years earlier on the night of a violent storm. A frequent visitor to his birthplace, Erlendur has spent his whole life searching for his brother Beggi who was lost in a snowstorm when they were both children. As he begins to ask questions about the fateful evening when Matthildur disappeared, Erlendur begins to suspect what may have also befallen his long-lost brother.

Can Erlendur possibly solve the disappearances of Matthildur, and Beggi, after all these decades? Or are the forces that want him to stop investigating stronger than he is?

Indridason's fans will race to discover the truth behind one of the most memorable endings in modern crime fiction.


Monday, 13 September 2021

STEPHEN BENTLEY - RIVERS OF BLOOD (2019)

 


Synopsis/blurb ...

There’s only one thing more dangerous than becoming a confidential informant.

Being an undercover cop. They have something in common - living on the edge.

Another Gripping Fast-paced Thriller in the Steve Regan Undercover Cop series. If you like Reacher, you will love Regan - the 'real deal!'

Steve Regan is still undercover working for the same UK secret government department. He sets off on what he thinks is a last assignment: seconded to the Australian Feds posing as a hit man hired to assassinate a liberal Australian politician.

The Australian murder plot leads to the discovery of a frightening far-reaching white supremacist conspiracy to overthrow the government of the United Kingdom.

Regan goes deep undercover within a London police CID department to gather evidence against the white supremacists.

Regan's undercover infiltration is the most dangerous and audacious assignment he has faced.

Will he succeed? Or will this dangerous game endanger someone close to him?

Who will survive and who will die?

Best book ever? No but enough present to make it worth the while listening to this one. That said the narrator (Alan R. Gron) did seem to have trouble with some of the accents he was attempting.... Aussie, Scouse and a kind of Michael Caine lilt. Not the best narration I've encountered but I've listened to worse.

Undercover cops, one in particular - Steve Regan, Australia - posing as a hit man in a sting, back in Blighty and undercover again, infiltrating an international Aryan Supremacy group with far-reaching plans and tentacles in the police and Government.

Danger, tension, excitement, a bit of humour, murder, racism, plenty of back story and family involvement, as main character, Steve Regan's wife is also a part of the same secret department. I liked the story, but didn't love it. I didn't quite feel any emotional involvement in the story mainly relayed from Steve's perspective. He loves his wife and children, and I liked him for that, but when they were in jeopardy I didn't really share his anxiety or pain.

I think the story worked for me on an uninvested level. It's fast-moving and fairly topical and while I sided with the side of good and I'm all for taking down racist scumbags, I wasn't gripped. Call me a conspiracy theorist but I could buy into how the resolution would play out in real life, regarding deniability and government cover-ups.

I have a couple more in Bentley's Regan series on the pile, two books that pre-date this series entry and a standalone novel. I expect I'll enjoy them at some point in the future.


3 from 5

Read - (listened to) September, 2021
Published - 2019
Page count - 186 (4 hrs 34 mins)
Source - Audible review copy via Story Origin and Audiobooks
Format - Audible

Sunday, 12 September 2021

AUGUST 2021 - FILMS + TV (HOME VIEWING)

A decent month's viewing on the home front with a couple of ok films and some TV series, new and old .... 

Lie With Me (2021) - Channel 5 - Mini Drama




Tense four part drama starring Charlie Brooks as a wife who is caught in an imperfect marriage around the other side of the world ..... manipulation, infidelity, mental health, scheming, drugs, isolation, payback. I really enjoyed it overall, though some of the situations made for uncomfortable viewing.

From Wikipedia ....

The series centres on a British woman and her husband seeking a fresh start in Australia after infidelity threatened their marriage. They hire a young local nanny who isn't as innocent as she appears with deadly consequences.

White Chicks (2004) - Film

A re-watch of a comedy film starring the Wayans brothers. An okay watch. Not hilarious all the way through, but it does have it moments. The sort of film you can have on in the background, while chatting. It doesn't demand all your attention. Seen better, seen much worse. 

From Wikipedia ...

White Chicks is a 2004 American comedy film directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans. It stars Shawn Wayans and Marlon Wayans as two black FBI agents who go undercover using whiteface as women to solve a kidnapping plot. The film was theatrically released in the United States on June 23, 2004, and grossed $113.1 million worldwide against a budget of $37 million.

Limetown (2019) - TV Drama Series

About four episodes in from a total of ten and after a cracking start, it's flagging a bit with a draggy fourth episode which bored me. I kind of want the survivors' stories and some forward momentum. I don't want to hear the details about one of the architects of the project. I do like Jessica Biel and it's one to stick with. 

It's an intriguing set-up - 300 people vanish. What happened. Kind of a Lost vibe about it.

From Wikipedia ...

Limetown is an American drama series, based on the podcast of the same name created by Zack Akers and Skip Bronkie, that premiered on Facebook Watch on October 16, 2019. The series stars Jessica Biel and Stanley Tucci.


Chaos (2005) - Film

I do like a gritty crime film and I do like Jason Statham as an actor. I liked the film, though his efforts at an American accent aren't entirely convincing. More to like than dislike though. Decent story, but I did guess where it was going.

From Google ...

A veteran detective joins forces with a rookie policeman when they are despatched to carry out negotiations with a group of criminals holding a bank hostage.


Law & Order UK Season 8 (2014) - ITV Drama Series

BOOM - another long running series put to bed, with the last four episodes watched. Farewell, I've enjoyed the ride!

From IMDB ....

Customs  S8, Ep5

The body of elderly businesswoman Ranya Habib is found at a suicide spot but foul play is suspected after a neighbour tells Ronnie he heard her arguing with somebody. Ranya was meeting Egyptian doctor Yafeu Elsayed, whom Ronnie suspects of terrorism though he claims to be Ranya's specialist. CCTV footage links Ranya's daughter-in-law Safia to the crime scene and she is arrested and charged with murder. However it transpires that Safia opposed Ranya's desire for Safia's little daughter Laila to be subject to genital mutilation by Elsayed and Kate tips off Sania's ...
 
Bad Romance S8, Ep6

Maids find blood-stained sheets but no body in a hotel room, booked with a credit card stolen from businessman Charles Hutton by Rufus Barton, a school classmate and secret lover of Hutton's daughter Georgia. Georgia admits that she had a miscarriage in the room but evidence shows that the baby was born alive and the young couple are arrested for infanticide - despite the absence of a corpse. At their trial, where they are represented by smooth Maitland Cosby, a long-standing adversary of Jake, they claim to have no knowledge of what happened to the baby but its ...
 
Hard Stop S8, Ep7

When a spate of shootings claims one of Ronnie and Joe's own, Wes Leyton, the pair are left with a race against time as the next target the shooter has in his cross-hairs is CPS boss Henry Sharpe.
 
Repeat to Fade S8, Ep8

Still affected by the death of one of their team, Ronnie and Joe have a new case to deal with when a young mother is stabbed to death in a busy London marketplace.
 
Deceit (2021) - Channel 4 - TV Drama Mini-Series

One episode from four watched of a True Crime drama. I don't think there's a person over a certain age in the UK, who can't recall the horrific murder that forms the heart of this series. Niamh Algar is pretty damn good as the officer sent undercover to get close to the police's main suspect.

It's an interesting reminder of the culture in the police in the 90s (and before). Male dominated with little kudos or respect given to equally capable female officers. 

From Google ....

Examining the controversial honeytrap at the heart of the high-pressure investigation into the devastating murder of Rachel Nickell, a young mother brutally attacked in front of her two-year-old son on Wimbledon Common in London in 1992.


Annika (2021) - Alibi - TV Drama series

Another new drama series which started airing in August. Only one episode in and I'm liking it. I did enjoy watching Nicola Walker in the last series of Unforgotten, earlier this year. Here she's a single parent to a stroppy teenager as well as the lead for a Marine Homicide Unit. Not quite sure I like the talking directly to the camera thing - ie the viewer - or not. 

First episode was good and it's only 6 episodes long in all. I like the setting. It reminds me a bit of the drama, Shetland which I enjoyed.

From Wikipedia ...

Annika is a British crime drama television series, based on the BBC Radio 4 drama Annika Stranded. Produced by Black Camel Pictures for Alibi and All3Media, the first episode aired on 17 August 2021.

The series follows DI Annika Strandhed as she takes over a new Marine Homicide Unit in Scotland.

The radio series Annika Stranded was also written by Nick Walker and featured Nicola Walker as Annika Strandhed but was set in Oslo.

Saturday, 11 September 2021

AUGUST 2021 - 31 DAYS, 31 SHORTS!


A short story a day for a month, four times a year, though a lot of them are Flash Fiction pieces in the main. Interesting to see how different authors can do a lot with a little ...

August was again (ditto June) mainly a Paul D. Brazill love-in, with the last week of the month spent camped over at Flash Fiction Offensive site, trawling through their archives.



1st - Paul D. Brazill - The Weather Prophet (Paul D. Brazill)

2nd - Graham BrackCrimes at Midnight (Crime Reader's Association)

3rd - Julian Barrett The CafĂ© des Infernaux (The Painted Clou - website of Julian Barrett)

4th - Sam Wiebe - Head Down (via author email to newsletter subscribers)

5th - Stephen D. Rogers - Lottery Tickets and Cigarettes (All Due Respect)

6th - Paul D. Brazill - Chelsea Girls (Paul D. Brazill)

7th - Paul D. BrazillThe Daytripper (Paul D. Brazill)

8th - Andy Rausch - The Iceman Killeth (Andy Rausch)

9th - Andy RauschThe Day Henry Came Calling (Andy Rausch)

10th - Paul D. Brazill - The Zodiac Club (Paul D. Brazill)

11th - Paul D. Brazill The Final Cut (Paul D. Brazill)

12th - Jason BovbergThe Lurker in the Chimney  (Jason Bovberg)

13th - Paul D. BrazillThe Man from Esperanto (Paul D. Brazill)

14th - Paul D. Brazill - Yesterday's Wine (Paul D. Brazill)

15th - Salvador John Christopher Walmart.com (Salvador John Christopher)

16th - Paul D. Brazill - The Odd and the Sods (Paul D. Brazill)

17th - Paul D. Brazill - THIS OLD HOUSE (Paul D. Brazill)

18th - Paul D. Brazill - Who Killed Skippy? (Paul D. Brazill)

19th - Paul D. Brazill - NUN WITH A GUN (Paul D. Brazill)

20th - Stephen KingCookie Jar (VQR)

21st -  Paul D. Brazill -EVERYDAY PEOPLE (Paul D. Brazill)

22nd - Chris OffuttMr. Cartoon (VQR)

23rd - Paul D. Brazill -  Red Esperanto (Paul D. Brazill)

24th - Col BuryA Public Service (Flash Fiction Offensive)

25th - Mike Miner The Wrong Saloon (Flash Fiction Offensive)

26th - Ian AyrisConsideration (Flash Fiction Offensive)

27th - Margot KinbergPick Up Time (Margot Kinberg)

28th - Glenn GrayThis Guy Daryl (Flash Fiction Offensive)

29th - Katie MooreRestless Legs and Foot in Mouth (Flash Fiction Offensive)

30th - Michael PelcLipstick (Flash Fiction Offensive)

31st - Matthew Dexter Black Widow (Flash Fiction Offensive)

------

Previous short story adventures...


AUGUST 2020 - 31 DAYS 31 SHORTS!

NOVEMBER 2020 - 30 DAYS, 30 SHORTS!

FEBRUARY 2021 - 28 DAYS, 28 SHORTS!

JUNE 2021 - 30 DAYS 30 SHORTS!

Friday, 10 September 2021

2 BY ANTHONY NEIL SMITH

A couple from an author I've been reading since way back when - Anthony Neil Smith

Apparently he's a bit of a cult!



Neil Smith has written about 15 novels, spanning three different series, plus a load of standalones and a couple of novellas and I've been enjoying him since he ran the old Plots With Guns site - in the late 2000s - which spotlighted a lot of short crime fiction stories and new-to-me under the radar authors.

I haven't read as much of him as I should have, but what I have I've enjoyed.

The CyclistAll the Young WarriorsXXX Shamus (as Red Hammond)To the Devil My Regards (with Victor Gischler) and a few more before the blog began - Psychosomatic, The Drummer and Yellow Medicine


Check these two out and thank me later ......

Worm (2015)

In the Bakken oil field of North Dakota, they call the new guys “worms.”

Ferret is a worm from Alabama, trying to kickstart a new life for his family, while back home his in-laws whisper break-up songs in his wife Dee Dee’s ear.

His boss, a shadowy old guy called Pancrazio, drags in Ferret, Gene Handy, and two roustabouts from Oklahoma to deal with a new meth empire on the prairie. Meanwhile, a reservation cop keeps a close eye on the big picture.

All Ferret wants is some easy money and the love of his family. But he quickly finds out that there’s danger around every corner, in every drill, truck and train car. And if the machines or chemicals don’t get him, then the other roughnecks will. Because beneath the dirt and grease, nobody is what they seem.

Praise for WORM:

“Years from now, Smith will be viewed as one of the best writers of our generation—he’s just not capable of writing anything but a fantastic novel.” —Les Edgerton, author of The Bitch, The Rapist and The Genuine, Plastic, Imitation Kidnapping

“Worm is a tremendous achievement in the portrayal of duplicity and greed in the oil boom. Smith hasn’t lost his fastball and he’s aiming it right at the reader’s head again, the way it should always be.” —Benoit Lelievre, Dead End Follies

“Smith pushes the characters hard and their flaws are ruthlessly exposed...it brings forward unlikely heroes who emerge from the mire when it becomes deep enough.” —Nigel Bird, author of Southsiders

Slow Bear (2020)

In the oil fields of North Dakota, times were good during the boom. Some people got rich: Santana the Exile certainly did. A lot of other people got jobs. A lot of bars and strip joints got busy.

Then the boom times ended and everything slowly crumbled back to the red dust from which it was built.

Micah 'Slow Bear' Cross used to be a reservation cop. He wasn't good at it but he was good at being bad at it. The one time he tried to be a good cop, he got his whole left arm shot off.

Now he sits around the casino all day flirting with Kylie, the Lady Barmaid, and giving people advice on their problems in exchange for some chips. Then in one bad day he's beaten up, banished, and given an assignment: frame Santana The Exile.

But Santana is into some really bad things. And if Slow Bear thought life had been rough so far, it's about to get a whole lot worse: for him, for Kylie, and for anybody who stands in the way of a one-armed man on a mission...

This is noir at its deepest, at its most savage, at its most vital, from an acknowledged modern master of the genre.

"More happens in the first two chapters of Slow Bear than in some literary novelist's entire output.Thrills, spills. Twists, turns. Heart, soul. As good as it gets." - Mark Ramsden, author of Mistress Murder, Radical Desire and Dread: The Art of Serial Killing

"Anthony Neil Smith mixes dark humor, menace, mayhem and a washed-out, one-armed hero in a noirish tale that never stops to take a breath." - Linwood Barclay, author of No Time for Goodbye and Too Close to Home

Thursday, 9 September 2021

AUGUST 2021 - FILMS (CINEMA)

A cracking month's viewing .... 

Six cinema outings... spies, lovers and romance, superheroes, lads on tour, a banged up abroad type of family quest for justice thingy and some tense gritty thrills

The Courier (2020)

I'm not Benjamin Cumberbatch's biggest fan but I did warm to him in this Cold War film, based on true events. Russian secrets,a British businessman and the Cuban Missile Crisis .... very tense, dark, and exciting.   

From Google ....

The true story of a British businessman unwittingly recruited into one of the greatest international conflicts in history. Forming an unlikely partnership with a Soviet officer hoping to prevent a nuclear confrontation, the two men work together to provide the crucial intelligence used to defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis.


Stillwater (2021)

I might have seen somewhere a comparison between this film and the Amanda Knox case and I can see the connection from what I remember about events surrounding her. Enough said.

I did enjoy this one. I haven't loved all the Matt Damon films I've seen but this one of my favourites of his. The ending I found quite sad, insofar as he kinds of gets what he wants, but seems to lose so much more in the pursuit of it.

From Google ....

An American oil-rig roughneck travels to Marseille, France, to visit his estranged daughter, in prison for a murder she claims she didn't commit. Confronted with language barriers, cultural differences and a complicated legal system, he soon builds a new life for himself as he makes it his personal mission to exonerate her.

Don't Breathe 2 (2021)

I haven't seen the original, but after enjoying this one - mostly from the edge of my seat - I'll try and seek it out. Violent, tough, grim, and a decent storyline.

From Google ...

Blind veteran Norman Nordstrom has been hiding out for several years in an isolated cabin. He lives with a young girl and has recreated the family stolen from him by a drunken driver. Their quiet life together is soon shattered when a group of unseemly criminals kidnaps her. Norman is now forced to tap into even darker and more creative instincts in an effort to save her.


The Last Letter from your Lover (2021)

Based on a Jojo Moyes book, I wasn't expecting too much from this one, but did find myself moved to tears. Incredibly affecting and powerful with a double romance thing going on. Pass the tissues!

From Google ...

After finding a trove of love letters from the 1960s, a journalist sets out to solve the mystery of a secret affair.

The Suicide Squad (2021)

Another one I enjoyed more than I expected to. I loved Sylvester Stallone in this and Idris Elba wasn't nearly as annoying as he has been in other outings of his I've seen in the past couple of years. 


From Google ...

The government sends the most dangerous supervillains in the world -- Bloodsport, Peacemaker, King Shark, Harley Quinn and others -- to the remote, enemy-infused island of Corto Maltese. Armed with high-tech weapons, they trek through the dangerous jungle on a search-and-destroy mission, with only Col. Rick Flag on the ground to make them behave.

People Just Do Nothing: Big in Japan (2021)

A bit of an InBetweeners vibe from this one, only without as much schoolboy toilet humour. Some of the gags might have fallen a bit flat, but overall it was funny in a lot of places and did what it said on the tin. Billy Bonus - it got us out of the house for another evening!

From Google ...

Since the end of their pirate radio station, life has been quiet for the Kurupt FM boys, but everything is about to change. News reaches them that one of their songs has been used on a popular game show in Japan. They've made it. Their music is reaching hundreds of thousands of people. It's finally time for them to enjoy the fame and fortune that they've always known they deserved.

Ranking
1. The Courier
2. The Last Letter from your Lover
3. Stillwater
4. Don't Breathe 2
5. The Suicide Squad
6. People Just Do Nothing: Big in Japan