Friday, 31 December 2021
Thursday, 30 December 2021
Tuesday, 14 December 2021
Murder Squad, a group of award-winning crime and mystery writers, celebrate their twenty-first birthday with a bang in this criminally good collection of short stories.
A dawn swim turns deadly in a brand-new short story starring DCI Vera Stanhope . . . Two bored cell-mates play a game with chilling results . . . A hen night in an isolated cottage brings new meaning to ‘I will survive’ . . . A train traveller teaches a valuable lesson in reading labels . . . A day at the seaside turns stormy for a woman who doesn’t care for foreigners . . . A wealthy retiree makes a new friend who connects her to the Other Side . . . and much much more.
Short, sharp and packed with twists, these 21 unputdownable tales showcase Murder Squad’s range and talent throughout the years. So why not treat yourself to a slice of murderously moreish fiction, and join us in wishing the squad ‘Many Deadly Returns’.
With stories by Ann Cleeves, Martin Edwards, Kate Ellis, Margaret Murphy, Chris Simms and Cath Staincliffe, as well as John Baker, Chaz Brenchley and Stuart Pawson.
Twenty-one short stories enjoyed via Audible, courtesy of Isis Audio and a chance to catch up with and enjoy some of Britain's best known crime fiction authors. Many years ago I read and enjoyed a book each by John Baker and Stuart Pawson. Ann Cleeves, Martin Edwards, Chris Simms and Cath Staincliffe (as well as more Baker and Pawson) sit on the TBR pile. I guess I'm not the only one with more books than actual time to read them.
These 20 plus stories were enjoyed early morning accompanied by black coffee in a comfortable chair before the rest of the household was awake. Typically the stories feature such crime fiction staples as murder, adultery, revenge and family.
I think it's harder to remember a barrage of short stories consumed one after the other than it is to absorb the salient points of a novel that is being read. That said I think there was only one story which didn't really deliver for me. The others all had a decent set up and pay off.
Highlights were Skeleton Crew and The Passenger by Chris Simms, as well as The Fox and the Hens by Kate Ellis. Pawson's Ultra Violent was very good as well. I enjoyed meeting Vera Stanhope in Wild Swimming and an overheard conversation on a train journey from Martin Edwards (Bad Friday) was well worth a listen. Simms story The Passenger was quite topical and relevant with some food for thought. Most of the others seemed to reinforce the old adage that crime doesn't always pay. Sometimes it does.
Lots more to like here than not and a bit of a reminder to try and get to some longer offerings from these guys. I think Chris Simms will be elevated to the top of the TBR pile for January, 2022.
For my OCD completist self, the full story list was as follows:
Margaret Murphy – Foreword
Martin Edwards – Introduction
Ann Cleeves – Wild Swimming
Martin Edwards – Lucky Liam
Cath Staincliffe – Scorpion
Chris Simms – Skeleton Crew
Kate Ellis – The Fox and the Hens
John Baker – An Old-Fashioned Poisoning
Margaret Murphy – Read the Label
Kate Ellis – My Oleander
Ann Cleeves – The Queen of Mystery
Chaz Brenchley – For Kicks
Cath Staincliffe – Two Birds
Margaret Murphy – Big End Blues
Martin Edwards – Bad Friday
Chris Simms – The Passenger
Kate Ellis – The Confessions of Edward Prime
Stuart Pawson – Ultra Violent
Cath Staincliffe – Perfect Storm
Chris Simms – Gaffed
Martin Edwards – The Other Life
Ann Cleeves – A Winter’s Tale
|Editor - Martin Edwards|
Overall - a great early morning eye-opener for the drab and dreary early December.
4 from 5
Read - (listened to) December, 2021
Published - 2021
Page count - 194 (9 hrs 13 mins)
Source - review copy from Isis Audio
Format - Audible
Friday, 3 December 2021
I do like the odd Western in my reading. I just think they are another sub-genre within the broad sphere of crime fiction. I guess I like a Splatter Western too, though I've not yet read one.
I don't know if it's a label appropriated or invented by Death's Head Press. Anyways I like the cut of their jib and the look of their books. Here's two from their canon.
Christine Morgan - The Night Silver River Run Red (2020)Some things, according to Cody McCall, are worth risking a whipping. Such as, sneaking out with your friends after dark for a peek at the traveling show setting up just outside of town. Oddities, the signs promise. Marvels. Grotesqueries. Exotic attractions and mysterious magics.
Not as if they'd be allowed to attend otherwise, not with parents and preacher and schoolmarm all disapproving. But how often does a chance like this come along? There isn't much else by way of excitement in quiet, peaceful Silver River, a once-prosperous boom town slowly gone bust.
Worth risking a whipping, sure. Worth risking life and limb, and maybe more? Worth risking being ripped to pieces by ravenous, inhuman brutes? Worth crossing paths with those strange, silent cult-folk from the high valley? Worth all the fire and bloodshed and horror and death?
Because something far worse than any ordinary traveling show has come to town, and one thing is for certain: those who survive, if any, will never forget the night Silver River run red.
(All Splatter Western books are stand-alone stories. Read them in whatever order you please!)
C. Derick Miller - Starving Zoe (2020)To most, 1865 was an eye-opening year. The American Civil War was officially over and the soldiers fortunate enough to survive the bloody conflict returned home to collect the pieces of their former lives. To young Arizonan, Robert Jack, the fateful desert homecoming marked the end to all he once knew.
Forgiveness is overrated. Death is final. Revenge, however, dances between the fine lines of mortality and eternity.
Love always finds a way.
(All Splatter Western books are stand-alone stories. Read them in whatever order you please!)
Thursday, 2 December 2021
Wednesday, 1 December 2021
Friday, 26 November 2021
One of my favourite authors, Dietrich Kalteis kindly dropped by to answer a few questions on his latest book, Under an Outlaw Moon.
Under an Outlaw MoonMeet Depression-era newlyweds Bennie and Stella. He’s reckless, she’s naive. Longing for freedom from tough times, they rob a bank, setting off a series of events that quickly spin out of their control
Under an Outlaw Moon is based on the true story of Depression-era bank robbers Bennie and Stella Mae Dickson. She’s a teenage outsider longing to fit in. He’s a few years older and he’s trouble. They meet at a local skating rink and the sparks fly.
They marry and Stella dreams of a nice house with a swing out back, while Bennie figures out how to get enough money to make it happen. Setting his sights on the good life, he decides to rob a bank. Talking Stella into it, he lays out his plan and teaches her to shoot. The newlyweds celebrate her 16th birthday by robbing a local bank.
They pull it off, but the score is small, and Bennie realizes the money won’t last long, so he plans a bigger robbery. What lays ahead is more than either of them bargained for. After J. Edgar Hoover finds out they crossed state lines, he declares them public enemies number one and two — wanted dead or alive. So much for the good life. The manhunt is on, and there’s little room for them to run.
Thursday, 25 November 2021
A couple from US author, Brian M. Wiprud.
I read Wiprud's debut Sleep with the Fishes sometime between 2000 and 2009 and enjoyed it, without being blown away. I think when I bought that and these I was seeking something similar to a Carl Hiaasen vibe. I'm not sure that Fishes quite got there.
Twelve years is a long time, so I ought to give these a work out.
Pipsqueak (2002)Tuning forks, thugs in plaid cummerbunds, digital TV, a dead biker, a stuffed loon and an old cartoon show? What's all this got to do with a ratty old squirrel puppet? That's the Pipsqueak story, featuring Garth Carson, a New York City taxidermy collector, and his gal Angie. After a murderous melee in an obscure antique store, the puppet goes missing and they find themselves entangled in a deadly swing band conspiracy and Soviet-era secrets.
"...the wildest mystery to come down the pike in a stuffed squirrel's age." --Publishers Weekly
Nicholas Palihnic is a natty, tweed-suited hustler who knows every nook and cranny of New York - and a thousand ways to break a girl's heart. Beatrice Belarus is a Manhattan art dealer with an insatiable appetite for money - and for anyone who gets in her way. And a painting titled Trampoline Nude, 1972 has neither nudity nor a trampoline. But when Nicholas is hired by an insurance company to find the recently stolen painting, a murdered art thief points him to a trove of gold buried beneath Manhattan - and suddenly all roads are leading back to Beatrice. As fortune hunters, lovers, and other strangers gather around him, there's one thing Nicholas must remember above all else: in this business, it's better to be crooked than dead....
Friday, 19 November 2021
A couple from the legendary Edward Bunker ...
Eddie Bunker wrote six novels, one of which was published posthumously in 2007. Bunker had passed in 2005. From his biography page at Fantastic Fiction it's clear he led an interesting life ...
Edward Heward Bunker was an American author of crime fiction, a screenwriter, and an actor.
He wrote numerous books, some of which have been adapted into films.
Bunker was a bright but troublesome child, who spent much of his childhood in different foster homes and institutions.
He started on a criminal career at a very early age, and continued on this path throughout the years, returning to prison again and again.
He was convicted of bank robbery, drug dealing, extortion, armed robbery, and forgery.
A repeating pattern of convictions, paroles, releases and escapes, further crimes and new convictions continued until he was released yet again from prison in 1975, at which point he finally left his criminal days permanently behind and became a writer.
Bunker stayed out of jail thereafter, and instead focused on his career as a writer and actor.
I enjoyed seeing him in Reservoir Dogs, many years ago. Pretty sure I've read and enjoyed most of his books - including these two, but not that I can recall them too much. My last outing was back in 2010 with his short story collection - Death Row Breakout & Other Stories. The novels have all been saved for a re-read sometime.
Drawing on a lifetime's experience of the sordid, horrifically violent world of America's prisons, Edward Bunker's novel The Animal Factory tells a tale of two convicts.
Ronald Decker, guilty of a minor drug dealing charge, is put away in San Quentin.
Earl Copen takes it upon himself to instruct the younger man in the brutal protocol of San Quentin and the strategies essential for survival.
Their growing friendship is tested when Ron's rejection of a homosexual advance by another con leads to an act of fatal violence, and they seize upon a remote chance of escape.
The Animal Factory is the ultimate prison novel.
Dog Eat Dog (1996)three men ... two convictions ... one last score ... no more chances!
Troy, an aloof mastermind, seeks an uncomplicated, clean life but cannot get away from his hatred for the system.
Diesel is on the mob's payroll and interest in his suburban home and nagging wife is waning.
Mad Dog is possessed by true demons within, that lead him from one explosive situation to the next.
One more hit, one more jackpot, and they'll all be satisfied ...
'A relentless freight train of a novel, obsessively readable, driven and dark' - Los Angeles Times
Thursday, 18 November 2021
Wednesday, 17 November 2021
Tuesday, 16 November 2021
This year, the fireworks will be red hot…
Skates Farrington is a changed man. Gone are the smart suits, the dull meetings and the extra pounds. Nowadays, he gets his thrills at the skate park and from whatever substances his dealers send his way. The only thing missing from his life is his ex-wife. She’s shacked up with a respectable partner in an isolated farm and striving to create the perfect life. Skates is convinced that she will come back to him when she sees his new self, but when attempts to win her heart all over again are thrown back in his face, he decides a little gentle persuasion is in order. Now he can include murder and abduction among his new-found skills.
DI Oliver Wilson, leading the investigation, has more than a few things on his mind. The case and imminent arrival of his third child should be at the forefront of his thoughts, but the arrival of a sequence of unusual gifts is making him nervous. The packages are sending him a message, he just can’t work out what they’re trying to say.
Ain’t That A Kick In The Head is the explosive follow up to Let It Snow and My Funny Valentine.
Praise for AIN’T THAT A KICK IN THE HEAD:
“Nigel Bird knows his characters inside and out—what they want, how they think, how they grow and how they fail. Ain’t that a Kick in the Head might be his best work yet. A convincing, engrossing portrayal of what life is like for cops and criminals alike.” —Chris Rhatigan, All Due Respect Books publisher
Ain't That a Kick in the Head is the third in Nigel Bird's Rat Pack series. Just putting it out there - it's one of my favourite contemporary crime fiction series. (For a sense of completism; Let it Snow and My Funny Valentine are the two earlier entries.)
Here the focus is on solving a murder and the search for a missing woman - Justine, the girlfriend of the murdered man. From the police's perspective she's possibly a suspect, possibly a kidnap victim. We have the same team of cops investigating as those encountered in the previous books, though it's a slightly pared down team with less characters than before. DI Oliver Wilson. DI Mike Marsalis and DS Sue Nolan are our main cop characters. Our local king-pin villain, Johnny Yen, a constant and sometime confidant of one of our cops also makes a welcome appearance.
Marital disharmony, jealousy, regret, obsession, delusions, and some extreme measures taken to woo back a partner who has grown up, moved on and left you behind. If a six stone weight loss, a new lifestyle and some gentle persuasion won't win Justine back from new love Colin, perhaps Skates Farrington might need to go a bit nuclear. Ergo murder, kidnapping, drugging and incarceration in his basement until the apple of his eye comes around to his way of thinking.
As a reader we know who's done what and to whom plus the why, but it's fun seeing the cops trying to catch up. Particularly when they are a little bit distracted by impending fatherhood and some odd happenings (DI Wilson I'm thinking of you) and in the case of Marsalis and Nolan, an ever increasingly confusing friendship set ablaze by sexual tension and scorching testosterone levels with restraint competing against reckless impulse. It's a wonder any investigating got done!
Quite fast-moving. Plenty of dark humour in the dynamics of the police relationships and in the time spent inside Skates Farrington's head. We get a satisfying conclusion to the drama, realistic as opposed to happy. There's also an answer to Wilson's bizarre deliveries, which is some fallout from one of the earlier books.
4.5 from 5
Read - October, 2021
Published - 2021
Page count - 196
Source - review copy from a generous author
Format - PDF read on laptop
Monday, 15 November 2021
Saturday, 13 November 2021
Where to start? 3 new-to-me authors who I ought to have tried a while back. 3 who've been enjoyed before.
|Antti Tuomainen - The Rabbit Factor (2021) - Audible purchase|
I think I have four or five of Tuomainen's earlier books on the pile and I still haven't got to him. Go figure. This is his latest and might be a good place to start.b
|Hansjorg Schneider - Silver Pebbles (2022) - Edelweiss - Above the Treeline review site|
|Tom Vater - Kolkata Noir (2021) - review copy from author|
|Sean O'Leary - Going All the Way (2021) - review copy from author|
|Peter Ritchie - Where Angels Rest (2021) - review copy from author|
One of my favourite Scottish authors. Previously enjoyed - Our Little Secrets, Where No Shadows Fall and Maxine's Story
|CB McKenzie - Burn What Will Burn (2016) - purchased copy|
Friday, 12 November 2021
A couple from Indigenous Canadian author, Wayne Arthurson.
The Traitors of Camp 133 (2016)
Captain Mueller is dead. Hanged, apparently, by his own hand. But ex-police officer and war hero Sergeant August Neumann doesn't think it's quite so simple. How could it be with blackshirts, legionnaires, and communist sympathisers vying for control of the camp?
Now Sergeant Neumann must navigate these treacherous cliques to find the truth while under the watchful eyes of his Canadian captors.
The Red Chesterfield (2019)M is a bylaw officer, living with two brothers, in their parents' old house. While investigating a
suspicious yard sale, M discovers a red chesterfield sitting in a ditch. Looking closer, M finds a running shoe-and a severed foot.
Now M is involved in a murder investigation. Meanwhile, older brother K's work for a new political party begins to seem suspicious, while younger brother J navigates the complicated world of young-adulthood, and boss Rhonda demands more and more attention, M must navigate a world of Russian gangsters and neglected wives, biker gangs and suspicious coincidences. On top of everything else, M is determined to track down the owner of that red chesterfield and make sure they get a ticket.
The Red Chesterfield is a delightful, unusual novel that upends the tropes and traditions of crime fiction while asking how far one person is willing to go to solve a crime, be it murder or the abandonment of a piece of furniture.