Wednesday 31 March 2021



KirkusReviews Best Fiction Books of 2019

Dennis Lehane meets Megan Miranda in this tense, atmospheric thriller about the first female sheriff in rural Bad Axe County, Wisconsin, as she searches for a missing girl, battles local drug dealers, and seeks the truth about the death of her parents twenty years ago—all as a winter storm rages in her embattled community.

Fifteen years ago, Heidi White’s parents were shot to death on their Bad Axe County farm. The police declared it a murder-suicide and closed the case. But that night, Heidi found the one clue she knew could lead to the truth—if only the investigators would listen.

Now Heidi White is Heidi Kick, wife of local baseball legend Harley Kick and mother of three small children. She’s also the interim sheriff in Bad Axe. Half the county wants Heidi elected but the other half will do anything to keep her out of law enforcement. And as a deadly ice storm makes it way to Bad Axe, tensions rise and long-buried secrets climb to the surface.

As freezing rain washes out roads and rivers flood their banks, Heidi finds herself on the trail of a missing teenaged girl. Clues lead her down twisted paths to backwoods stag parties, derelict dairy farms, and the local salvage yard—where the body of a different teenage girl has been carefully hidden for a decade.

As the storm rages on, Heidi realizes that someone is planting clues for her to find, leading her to some unpleasant truths that point to the local baseball team and a legendary game her husband pitched years ago. With a murder to solve, a missing girl to save, and a monster to bring to justice, Heidi is on the cusp of shaking her community to its core—and finding out what really happened the night her parents died.

Bad Axe County is the first in a three book series from author John Galligan. After encountering this one, I've got the next two lined up in my sights already.

Exciting, tense, brutal and disturbing.........we encounter murder, loss, bereavement, corruption, betrayal of the badge, misogyny, rape, abuse, trafficking, macho culture - boys are boys, women are things - unless they are part of the profiteering, family feuds, baseball, family, suspicion of spouse, doubt, deviants, career opportunity or career suicide, death, danger and at the centre of it all a female probationary sheriff in the middle of an investigation to stop an abduction while still seeking answers to her parent's murders a dozen years or more back. (There's a contradiction in the blurb - 15 years or 20 years? I can't remember.)

Enjoyed on Audible. Initially I kind of found myself a bit overwhelmed by all the happenings and trying to keep track of the wide cast of characters, but once I caught the rhythm of the book it was a fantastic read.

Tremendous story, with a sympathetic, tough, determined main character in Heidi Kick. It's a very busy book, but one sung out to me on a lot of levels. 

The community of Bad Axe seems overly populated by a high percentage of entitled, misogynistic, corrupt ass-wipes with their stag parties - beer, drugs, strippers, guns, trucks. I know you get bad eggs popping up everywhere, but here the community seems almost divided equally been good and bad. At times Heidi seems to have the weight of the world on her shoulders and legions actively opposing her. There is a small band of supporters within her sheriff's department, as well as a powerful enemy.

The other thing that stuck out was the kind of pack mentality of male athletes and the team culture that emboldens them to regard girls of the same age as meat. As a father of two young women, I find myself threatened and belittled by such attitudes. Is that how we want to be as a society? Is the book an exaggeration or an accurate portrayal? Whatever happened to respect?

In addition to the excitement, a bit of food for thought as well.

4.5 from 5 

I'm looking forward to Dead Man Dancing and Bad Moon Rising - #2 and 3 in the series.

Read - (listened to) February, 2021

Published - 2019

Page count - 337 (10 hrs 24 mins)

Source - Audible purchase

Format - Audible

Tuesday 30 March 2021




They solve cold cases. But the murderer they’re hunting may be warming up for more.

Sacramento Police data expert Mallory Dimante refuses to give up on her long-lost brother. So she lies her way into the new Ongoing Investigation Division and attaches herself to two cynical detectives. Hoping to blow open an unsolved child-killer case, Mallory sparks a frenzy of activity when she discovers evidence that the perpetrator may still be at large.

With her legwork taking her to a dilapidated amusement park, it stuns the determined woman when she uncovers a trail of clues leading back to her brother’s disappearance. And after another child vanishes, she remains no closer to stopping the fiend…

Can Mallory unmask the murderer, or will they all end up in a shallow grave?

Olive Park is the first novel in the pulse-pounding Park Trilogy murder mystery series. If you like split-perspective stories, fascinating locations, and thrilling tension, then you’ll love C. J. Booth’s award-winning roller-coaster ride.

Another new-to-me author with a book that I enjoyed quite a bit more than I expected to, if I'm honest.

We have a cold case investigation into some historic unsolved and infamous child murders, intersecting with the current lives of a couple of orphaned siblings, one of whom recently killed their father, while trying and failing to protect their mother.   

I do enjoy a twin narrative. We follow a newly founded cold case team and their civilian support. I enjoyed the covering of old ground, checking the work of the original detective team on the case and the rehashing of events. I liked the dynamics of the team, with the civilian newbie pushing and prodding the detectives towards action as opposed to inertia. Later on we discover her personal motivation. There's a slight suspension of disbelief in the discovery of new evidence at a 12 year old murder site. Later on the two strands converge and there is a satisfying outcome.

Tense, interesting, gripping, exciting. Well-rounded characters - people you care about and a scary villain. Quite a long book for me, but not one that dragged nor one that seemed to be rushed either. Pretty on point.

Olive Park is the first in a trilogy from the author. I'm quite looking forward to the other two.

4 from 5

Read - (listened to) February, 2021

Published - 2011

Page count - 356 (12 hrs 12 mins)

Source - Audible purchase

Format - Audible

Monday 29 March 2021




In this neighborhood, make a wrong turn.

. and you're history.

Mickey Wade is a recently-unemployed journalist who lucked into a rent-free apartment - his sick grandfather's place. The only problem: it's in a lousy neighborhood - the one where Mickey grew up, in fact. The one he was so desperate to escape.

But now he's back. Dead broke. And just when he thinks he's reached rock bottom, Mickey wakes up in the past. Literally.

At first he thinks it's a dream. All of the stores he remembered from his childhood, the cars, the rumble of the elevated train. But as he digs deeper into the past, searching for answers about the grandfather he hardly knows, Mickey meets the twelve-year-old kid who lives in the apartment below.

The kid who will grow up to someday murder Mickey's father.

Another one from Duane Swierczynski that I liked - a lot. Just don't ask me to elaborate on the plot/resolution, because my brain and memory has turned to mush - possibly as a result of reading this book. Swierczynski's plots can often be a bit of a mind-f***!

Character, setting, pace, story, twists ... all present in an abundance. I THINK! 

Outcome - and this is where I scratch my head and wonder - I can't actually remember. All of which might lead you to think it's a bang average book. You'd be wrong.

I think I'm going to have to save this one for a re-read and why the hell not. Fun will be had.

4 from 5

Duane Swierczynski has been read and enjoyed before..... Secret Dead Men, The Wheelman, The Blonde, Severance Package, Fun and Games and Canary 

Read - January, 2021    

Published - 2010

Page count - 256

Source - purchased copy

Format - paperback

Sunday 28 March 2021


Got to love a bit of Stasi based crime fiction, and Irish, and US.......

                                    Alan Gorevan - The Forbidden Room (2020) - purchase

An Irish author I have yet to try.....

You and your partner are looking forward to a romantic break in the rugged landscape of West Cork, on the south west coast of Ireland. Cliff walks, seafood dinners and spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean.

But a storm is brewing.

Your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. There’s no phone signal. So you start walking.

You search for help.

And you find it. At an isolated house, a family gives you shelter… but something is wrong.

The husband has a head wound. The son is too terrified to speak. And the wife forbids you from going near her other son’s bedroom.

This short, sharp novel will keep you up all night.

                                          David Young - The Stasi Game (2020) - purchase

The 6th in Young's Oberleutnant Karen Muller series. I enjoyed one of the earlier books - A Darker State a few years ago. He's kind of gotten away from me since then.

A man's body is found buried in concrete at a building site in the new town district. When People's Police homicide captain Karin Müller arrives at the scene, she discovers that all of the body's identifiable features have been removed - including its fingertips.

The deeper Müller digs, the more the Stasi begin to hamper her investigations. She soon realises that this crime is just one part of a clandestine battle between two secret services - the Stasi of East Germany and Britain's MI6 - to control the truth behind one of the deadliest events of World War II.

The Stasi Game brilliantly fictionalises the true story of how Britain's wartime leaders justified the fire-bombing of German city of Dresden, which many have since condemned as a war crime.

                                          Greg F. Gifune - Dangerous Boys (2017) - purchase

One I missed three or four years ago when it initially came out.....

All they had was each other... and nothing to lose...

Summer, 1984. For Richie Lionetti and his gang of friends, their years as teenagers are coming to an end. At a crossroad in their lives as petty criminals and thugs on the mean streets of New Bedford, Massachusetts, they've got one final summer, one last chance to fall in love, brawl for their turf, rob and pillage, and one last chance to make a move and pull a job that could change their lives forever.

As a series of brutal heatwaves hit southeastern Massachusetts, the city boils, and everyone is on edge. In the hopes of finding something better, Richie desperately searches for meaning in all the violence, sex and degradation that is his daily life. But at what price?

Part coming-of-age tale, part dark crime thriller, Dangerous Boys is the story of a group of young punks with nothing left to lose, fighting to find themselves, their futures, and a way out of the madness and darkness before it's too late.


"Extremely well written and quite compelling, Dangerous Boys hits all the right marks. It's a novel you'll enjoy reading and regret when the last page is turned. Reminded me a bit of Dennis Lehane, a bit of Martin Scorsese, and a bit of S.E. Hinton. What I'm saying is: Greg F. Gifune has written a crime novel that's character-driven, jarringly violent, and somehow tender." - Grant Jerkins, author of Abnormal Man

                                               Max Hertzberg - Stasi Vice (2018) - purchase

Another recently discovered author. First in his Reim series.

Lieutenant Reim of the Stasi is keen to avoid trouble.

Reim enjoys his life in East Berlin and sees no need for his days behind a desk and nights in front of the bottle to change.
But when a senior officer has a messy affair, it falls to Reim to do the clearing up.
It should be a straightforward job. Lean on a few people to get them to shut up. Intimidate neighbours, bribe officials and appeal to the socialist conscience of Party members. But when Reim starts his interrogations, he realises his boss is hiding more than just a lover.
Lieutenant Reim begins to investigate his superior—and what he uncovers puts his own life at risk. 

If Raymond Chandler had lived in East Berlin, this is the book he would have written

                                          Phillip Thompson - Old Anger (2020) - purchase

Third in the author's Colt Harper series.

The long-awaited return of Colt Harper, a lawman in the tradition of Jesse Stone and Walt Longmire

Sheriff Colt Harper believes he's colorblind in his enforcement of the law. But is he? When a black man is murdered, it ignites age-old anger in the African-American community over the injustices they've endured and forces Harper to confront his own personal demons. Harper's single-minded pursuit of justice for the dead man thrusts him between two volatile groups -- furious blacks who don't know if they can trust him and racist whites who want to use the controversy to spark a bloody race war.

"Old Anger has some sweet echoes of the past while being something modern at the same time. Pacing is outstanding and the story is engaging. It has a western rash under it's skin. Recommended." Joe R. Lansdale

                                          Thomas Scott - State of Control (2016) - purchase

Another punt on an untried author.

In Shelby County, Indiana, a group of mega-farmers are about to make the deal of their lives. During a dry season that threatens to ruin their harvest, they begin to dig for irrigation water but hit a pocket of natural gas instead. A hasty deal is put on the table and the members of the Shelby County Co-op board are set to go from a Midwestern farming powerhouse to a multi-million dollar fracking operation that will ruin the land along the Flatrock River forever. Except one of the farmers doesn’t like the idea. He doesn’t like it at all…

Pam Donatti is still grieving the loss of her husband, Ed, after he was killed in a vicious gun battle, a battle that almost cost Virgil his own life. When the state refuses to pay Pam Donatti her husband’s death benefits, the Indiana State Troopers go on strike in support of a fallen officer’s family. But Pam has a secret, one that has the potential to change her, and her son’s life forever…

On a quiet Sunday afternoon Virgil’s former boss calls and tells him the governor wants a private meeting. Why? He has no idea. And frankly, he doesn’t care. He was fired from the state’s Major Crimes Unit by the governor himself eight months ago. Besides, his life is going just fine. His wife, Sandy, is pregnant with their first child, he owns two businesses—a Jamaican themed bar called Jonesy’s, and a private investigation firm he runs with his partner and brother, Murton Wheeler. But Virgil is about to discover that time isn’t as linear as it appears and events from his past are about to repeat themselves. And when they do, he’ll come face to face with pure evil, forced to make the kind of choice no man should ever have to make.

State of Control is a thriller filled with gripping suspense and Thomas Scott’s unique blend of humor, action, mysticism, and authentic characters...A story that examines the complexities of good and evil and shows just how far one man will go to stay in control of it all.

Saturday 27 March 2021




SERENITY STALKED: A cold-blooded killer has blazed a trail of dead bodies across the country, with no one to stand in his way...until he starts killing on Shelby Alexander's home turf: the small Michigan town of Serenity. The second book in the Shelby Alexander Thriller Series, Serenity Stalked takes readers inside the mind of a terrifying killer. The stakes have never been higher.

My second time with Craig A. Hart and his Serenity series featuring retired boxer, Shelby Alexander. I'm not usually one for cold-blooded killer books, but I really enjoyed this one, aided in part by the fact it was narrated by one of my favourite Audible book guys, Theo Holland.

It's been a few months since I listened to it, so a lot of the details have deserted me. Alexander's girlfriend becomes a target for a nomadic killer. A different guy who had been harassing her, gets killed after Shelby had visited him, so Alexander is in the frame for that. The girlfriend gets kidnapped, the killer/kidnapper is living out a head fantasy where they are a live happily ever after couple, tension mounts etc etc, tables get turned, a twist or two, everyone does indeed live happily ever after except for one.

I don't mean to be flippant. I did have a good time listening to this one. Decent story, with an interesting, sympathetic main character, a reasonable pace, but not to the exclusion of character development - main and support cast or back story elements. I was happy with the outcome of the book and I want to read more from the author in the future. What else do you need?

4 from 5  

Serenity has been enjoyed before. I think the series currently runs to eight books.

Read - (listened to) January, 2021

Published - 2017

Page count - 194 (3 hrs 41 mins)

Source - Audible purchase

Format - Audible

Friday 26 March 2021




Stepping blindly into a horrific murder scene, a young ex-con, Vicente Vargas, must flee from the police while eluding the real killer who continues to pin more bodies on him in this intricate cat-and-mouse game.

Cut off from all friends and family, tried and convicted by the press, Vic must survive on his wits and cunning on the gritty streets of Phoenix, Arizona long enough to clear his name.

An interesting set up which has a young Hispanic man set up for a murder. It's almost like an episode of The Fugitive. By the time we reach the end, its still unclear as to what is exactly going on and in particular why. Our main character, Vicente has now thrown his lot in with a young teenage girl, who is connected to the murder of her grandmother's nurse, courtesy of some clever computer hacking.

Youthful mistakes, consequences, family, a murder and a patsy, events out of control, hacking, on the run, law enforcement, gangs....

Some books kind of frustrate me with the cliffhanger outcome, but on this occasion not so much. I'm just intrigued as to the under-lying story and the explanation for Vicente's and his young accomplice's situation.

Story - interesting; pace - steady; characters - sympathetic; setting - a plus; lots of tension and no little excitement; the odd moment when you are thinking ...... No Vicente, don't do that! And of course he does.  

Elude Part One is obviously followed by Part Two, which in turn is concluded (one hopes) by Part Three. Roll on Part Two!

4 from 5

Read - (listened to) March, 2021

Published - 2018

Page count - 109 (2 hrs 22 mins)

Source - Audible purchase

Format - Audible

Thursday 25 March 2021




Detectives Finch and Elias have seen a lot -- murders, assaults, rapes, missing persons -- but they've never investigated a missing mummy before. Follow the two partners as they sift through a half dozen different suspects and try to solve the mystery of a stolen child mummy from the River City museum.

Part whodunit mystery, part procedural, with more than a little wise-cracking along the way, The Bastard Mummy has a little something for all kinds of mystery readers.

A fast one-sitting read, which was enjoyable without me ever feeling truly stunned or amazed at anything the book threw up. 

A theft at a museum and a list of suspects, mainly employees of one description or other to filter down and eliminate. Usually with this sort of scenario, the guy (or gal - no spoilers, eh) that seems the least likely, is pretty much guaranteed to be the guilty party.

I liked the set-up, the characters, the interviews, the outcome. I liked the fact I could zip through this pocket-sized book in an hour or so and scratch off another Zafiro book in the read column. 

The Bastard Mummy is part of Zafiro's River City writings, comprising collections of short stories and novels. I guess I will cross paths with Finch and Elias again in the future.

3.5 from 5

Read - January, 2021

Published - 2010

Page count - 124

Source - purchased copy

Format - paperback

Wednesday 24 March 2021




He waits in the shadows, a dark and deadly presence. And with each new killing he becomes less human and more vicious. He stands patiently, a wire garrote in his hands, ready to claim another victim. Soon he will have one more to add to his growing list of victims unless they can stop him. But how can they stop him when they don't know who he is? Or what he is? To a terrified city he was known only as the Wireman.

Set in the 1970s, two brothers return from the Vietnam war with blood on their hands. Learning to kill the enemy wasn't something that would go away when they returned home to Houston, Texas. Could one of them be the serial killer, Wireman? Could the other stop him?

Loosely based on true crimes that occurred in Houston, Texas in 1978-80.

A suspense thriller by Edgar-Nominated author, Billie Sue Mosiman.

Hard-hitting, brutal, graphic and pretty damn tense.

I'm not usually a massive fan of the deranged killer type book, but with Mosiman's Wireman there were other elements in play which made the book a lot more attractive than one I would otherwise pass by without a backwards glance.

Here we have a tale which starts in the 60s in Texas and a couple of brothers growing up pretty wild, the product of childhood neglect - father gone, mother feckless. Boys will be boys, small animals disappear and die painfully. One leads, the other follows. Escalation. A war comes along and offers a legitimate outlet for cruelty, deviance and violence. Small animals are replaced by the enemy. A breakdown follows. Rotation back to the States and after some treatment, the brothers are re-united in civilian life. 

I liked the growing up elements, the small town life, the outsider elements, the trauma, the brotherly bond, though it becomes clear early on that the empathy and control buttons are missing from the older brother. I enjoyed the Vietnam combat chapters..... the fear, the danger, the action, the togetherness of the two young men and also the do what you need to do to get through mentality. It's fair to say they both come out of the war damaged, arguably at least one of them went into the service pretty broken already.

Civilian life, the killings start, or more factually just continue. The brothers live together. One tries to forge a normal relationship with a woman but the other is jealous and scuppers it. The narrative expands to include a wider cast of characters, with a young boy as a victim and his bereft policeman father trying to help with a manhunt while hopelessly cut adrift from anything sane and normal.

Investigation, more murders, cat and mouse, a chase, an outcome.

I enjoyed this one a lot, though I was quite surprised at the brutality on display, particularly from a female author. (Should I be? Is it sexist to assume that women don't do graphic, visceral violence?)

Enjoyable storyline, great time frame and settings - 60 and 70s, Texas and Vietnam. Interesting characters - ones who you could empathise with and share their pain at mistreatment and abuse, but ultimately loathe because of their actions. It does beg the question whether people turn out how they do through nature or nurture.

4 from 5

This was my first time reading Billie Sue Mosiman, but it won't be my last. 

Read - (listened to) January, 2021

Published - 1984 

Page count - 272 (8 hrs 39 mins)

Source - Audible purchase

Format - Audible

Tuesday 23 March 2021



Synopsis/blurb ......

Jack is back in this dynamic re-release of best-selling crime writer Gerry Boyle’s first novel.

Meet Jack McMorrow, a hard-hitting crime reporter for the New York Times, now living in the backwoods of Maine, near the paper plant in Rumford. Jack's there to run the local paper, but when a unpopular photographer is found drowned in a nearby canal, Jack gets drawn into a complicated game that has kept members of the town silenced and in fear for their lives.

Maine may be the place where life is as it should be, but McMorrow finds out staying alive may be harder than he thought.

I've had an eye on this author's books for a while now without ever taking the plunge until now. I do like an investigative journalist/reporter type tale where the main guy usually fights crime by exposing corruption. Gerry Boyle has written a dozen or so books featuring his newspaperman Jack McMorrow.

Well I'm not saying the book started off slow, but I think I had a full length beard by the time I reached the end of the first chapter. By around the 100 page mark, it was touching the floor. In fairness things did speed up slightly after that, though my pet tortoise, still a bit sluggish post-hibernation was still moving at the speed of light compared to pedestrian Jack. 

At the risk of repeating myself, to say things took a while to get going, might be an understatement. A freelance photographer who does some work for McMorrow's newspaper, turns up dead by drowning. The circumstances are slightly suspicious. The area the victim was found is quite isolated and there is no vehicle in the vicinity, so how did he get there? The police are tending towards suicide. The man had no close friends or relatives to care or make a fuss. Jack McMorrow is the only one who seems remotely interested, including this reader. 

Eventually things get going. McMorrow and his girlfriend get targeted, physically and via distressing messages. We discover more about the photographer and what he may/may not have been upto. There's another major plot point concerning a story McMorrow is working on regarding the paper plant and their overbearing influence as the town's major employer and the pressure they bring to bear on local government and the town's tax revenues.. ie we can't afford to pay our dues, reduce the bill or we upsticks and relocate. McMorrow finds them pulling a similar stunt in other locations. Is the plant or it's agents ie. disgruntled employees responsible for the attacks on McMorrow and does it connect in some way to the drowning death or are there other nefarious forces involved?

Read it and find out.

I'm not one for giving up on books. I always continue in the sometimes vain hope that things will improve and get better. I think if this had been a printed copy as opposed to an Audible book, my resolve may have been severely tested. It did get better. I did kind of enjoy it by the time we got to the end. I was interested in getting answers to all the different questions posed regarding the murder and the who, and the how and the why. I would have enjoyed it better, if it had been a much leaner, faster read.

3 from 5

I do have more from Gerry Boyle on the pile. I wonder if he gets things going a bit sooner in his second series book. Not rushing towards it, but I'll get to it at some point. 

Read - (listened to) February, 2021

Published - 1993

Page count - 376 (9 hrs 48 mins)

Source - Audible purchase

Format - Audible

Monday 22 March 2021




Gertrude is back! When she finds a murder victim at her local Goodwill, she tries to tell the Sheriff's Department everything she knows. Of course, they don't listen. So of course, she must solve the mystery herself. And the only way she can figure to do this is to go undercover—as the Mattawooptock Goodwill's newest team member.

Anyone who knows Gertrude knows this probably isn't the best idea. She'll probably get fired. Or arrested. Or worse.

Another January day, another Audible read and another cozy mystery from Robin Merrill, featuring her geriatric amateur PI, Gertrude. This one is the second in the series after Introducing Gertrude, Gumshoe.

Probably not the most enjoyable book I've consumed, but far from the worst. Gertrude is shopping at her local Goodwill store when a woman is brained on the head with a heavy lamp. The police are called. The shop is locked down with staff and customers alike. Somewhat inevitably it falls upon Gertrude herself to catch the killer and after a few days blundering around.... taking a job at the store, stealing and crashing a fork lift, breaking and entering ... she comes up trumps. 

Some of the books I read, my expectations are set higher than other. Here I was after something quick, not too complex or taxing mentally, a few chuckles and a coherent narrative with a plausible mystery. I think a retired, feisty, awkward old gal as an amateur PI solving a murder (or several if you're writing a series) might be a stretch of the strains of believability, but really isn't all fiction?

I did think it a bit strange that the author felt the need to apologise to staff and customers of Goodwill stores, either in the introduction or afterwards (I forget which), for setting her story where she did. No offence was intended. None taken here, but do we need to apologise for everything these days? 

3 from 5  

Read - (listened to) January, 2021

Published - 2016

Page count - 180 (3 hrs 32 mins)

Source - Audible purchase

Format - Audible

Sunday 21 March 2021




Double Dutch loves playing Cupid and for one lucky lady his arrow will be painfully sharp. Only the police can prevent him from hitting his target before Valentine’s Day comes to a close.

It’s almost twenty years since the last Double Dutch killing and he’s back with a vengeance. The discovery of his latest victim resurrects ghosts the police hoped they’d laid to rest forever.

With Valentine’s Day almost upon them, detectives know they have limited time to avoid another slaying.

Follow DI Wilson and his team as they try to locate the killer before he strikes again.

My Funny Valentine is the second novel in the highly-praised Rat Pack series

The second book from Nigel Bird's Rat Pack series after the highly enjoyable, Let it Snow from 2019. This one features the same team of detectives and uniformed officers as the previous book. Again, we have more than one case or problem to solve, though the secondary issue is more of a personal family nature for one officer than an on-the-books case. A younger relative has gone off the rails slightly and needs extricating from a difficult situation involving a local gang. Some familial and community action of a somewhat unorthodox manner is called for.

The main focus of the book involves an old, elusive foe from years ago - the Double Dutch killer, who after a long period of inactivity is back on the team's patch and killing again. His previous victims all perished around Valentine's Day and with this year's February date fast approaching, there is an urgency to capturing Dutch before the inevitability of another victim. Somewhat frustratingly for the team, the killer was fleetingly in their custody, before a distraction saw him released.

I liked catching up with some familiar faces from the last book. There's enough time devoted to events and issues involving the character's outside of the job, in addition to the investigation..... we have family issues (mentioned above), problems with unruly offspring at school, which spills over to causing domestic tension with a partner, and there's a romantic situation possibly being taken to the next level given the time of year.

On the investigative front, there's almost a cold case feel to it as the original investigation needs re-examination, in addition to the current timeline. Florists, flowers, DNA, overseas police cooperation, identification, interviews, an Australian dimension, surveillance, football, crowds, CCTV, taxis, targeting of a specific victim, collateral damage, and a somewhat surprising resolution.    

Overall, I really enjoyed this one. It's a busy book, lots going on with a plethora of interesting characters and situations, but it's always under the author's control. There's plenty happening, but not too much. Another plus for me is the length, the text of the prose comes in at about 220 pages which is just long enough to develop the plot with back story flesh, but without padding things out.

Decent storyline, enjoyable setting and a satisfying outcome.

4.5 from 5

Nigel Bird has been read and enjoyed previously...... Let it SnowBeat on the Brat (and Other Stories), SmokeMr Suit. I look forward to reading more of his work in the future.

Read - February, 2021
Published - 2020
Page count - 234
Source - review copy from author
Format - Paperback

Saturday 20 March 2021


Cinemas were closed again, which was no big surprise.

Five films watched in the month. A couple of definite rewatches and a couple of Clint Eastwood films that I may have seen way way way back.

                                                          The Wedding Singer (1998)

One of my top 10 films of all time that just never gets old, no matter how many times I've seen it. I could watch it again tonight and I'd be happy.

From IMDB....

Robbie, a singer, and Julia, a waitress, are both engaged, but to the wrong people. Fortune intervenes to help them discover each other.

                                                              Music and Lyrics (2007)

Another feel good family favourite....... more than a bit cheesy, it's full on strong cheddar, wrapped in stilton, stuffed with gorgonzola and served with a side helping of brie and topped with a camembert sauce. 

From Google....

An old-time '80s pop artist asks the lady who waters his plants to help him write lyrics for a duet with a teen pop icon that will help him with his comeback in the music industry.

                                                      The Strangers: Prey at Night (2018)

In truth, I can't actually remember this at all. If it was amazing I would have remembered it. If it was atrocious I would have remembered it. Probably bang average then.

From IMDB....

A family of four staying at a secluded mobile home park for the night are stalked and then hunted by three masked psychopaths.

                                                                Coogan's Bluff (1968)

Hick lawman in the big city. A bit like Crocodile Dundee only this one was first by more than 20 years. I enjoyed it.

From Google....

Arizona lawman Walt Coogan (Clint Eastwood) hopes to make a short business trip to the big city, but his journey quickly becomes an odyssey of violence. Walt is flummoxed when Manhattan police put the brakes on his plan to return a jailed murderer (Don Stroud) to the Southwest. Bent on getting his man, he temporarily outwits the New Yorkers, only to be plunged into a series of ugly confrontations with counterculture types who are the antithesis of the straitlaced Walt.

                                                                  High Plains Drifter (1973)

Clint Eastwood, a Western, horses, hats, guns, good vs evil. What's not to like?

From Google....

In this Western, a drifter with no name (Clint Eastwood) wanders into a small town, where his gun-slinging abilities are in high demand. When the drifter rides into Lago, he is met with incredulity and disapproval by the townspeople. But once he shows his skills with a pistol, the locals realize he may be able to help them fend off a band of criminals who have been terrorizing the town. He agrees to help the townspeople, but does so with his own secret agenda.

Friday 19 March 2021




Shane Moxie: A washed-up 80s action star who refuses to believe his best days are behind him... Duke: A hyper-intelligent chimpanzee, and arguably the greatest animal actor of his generation... Reunited for an anniversary movie screening, when Moxie and Duke are targeted by assassins, the feuding co-stars reluctantly join forces to smash an organized crime syndicate headed by an iconic German action star dealing death from his movie-themed fast food franchise...

One's a big dumb animal, the other's a chimpanzee: S**t just got real.

From Adam Howe, writer of Tijuana Donkey Showdown, and Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet, and the winner of Stephen King's On Writing contest, comes a 'buddy' action/comedy in the tradition of Lethal Weapon, 48 Hrs, and Tango & Cash. Buckle up for the Ready Player One of 80s/90s action movies. One Tough Bastard will turn you into a goddamn sexual tyrannosaurus... just like its author.

Probably the funniest book I have read in the past 12 months, and I doubt anything will top it in the laugh out loud comedy stakes for the rest of this year. That said there's a lot more going on in One Tough Bastard than the author showing off his comedy props.

A fast moving story full of action set against a backdrop of Hollywood films, with an over-the-hill lead man with a career in terminal decline, a simian-human romance, bad blood and a chequered history, and an unlikely double act pairing trying to take down a drug smuggling ring in between having a plaster cast dick mould taken. Bad guys, good guys, a lead guy with a total lack of self awareness and all the funnier because of it. You've got to love a man rocking a mullet!

You might think the absurdity of the premise - an acting chimpanzee, complete with a Kevin Spacey sounding voice box and a full on romance with a lovely lady (pre-bereavement) as half of an investigative double act - might fall flat on its face due to the absolute ridiculousness of the set up, but actually no. Author Adam Howe had me convinced and rooting for our heroes.

Entertaining, hilarious, credible and satisfying. 

Very, very good. Very, very funny. Hard to do it justice to be honest. 

4.5 from 5

Adam Howe's work has been enjoyed before. Gator Bait back in 2015

Read - March, 2021

Published - 2021

Page count - 315

Source - review copy from author

Format - PDF read on laptop


Thursday 18 March 2021




Trouble has a habit of finding some people. 

Kitchenhand Deron thinks he’s hit the jackpot when a routine delivery of vegetables turns out to be contraband. The problem is it belongs to somebody else. And they want it back.

Financier Hamish has got involved in the arms trade and business is good. However, he’s unwittingly made a formidable foe. One who will stop at nothing for revenge.

Ken’s fed up with the nine-to-five. An illegal venture with girlfriend Laura brings the job satisfaction he craves, but also attention from organised crime. This could all go horribly wrong. 

These sharp, shocking and suspenseful stories are a must read. 

‘Dangerously droll crime capers’ – Adam Riley, Comedian

If you like dark humorous crime, you'll love Mangetout

Three stories here, Mangetout, Payback and Grower. Two of them concern drugs, one the arms trade. All crime stories and all with humourous undertones, though I don't think my sides were ever in danger of splitting.

MANGETOUT is set in a frenzied restaurant kitchen, where a delivery of the aforementioned vegetable comes with a stash of drugs tucked inside. Our sous chef, Deron not a stranger to the attractions of the illicit merchandise trousers it himself. Inevitably the owners of the property want it back. 

Drugs, foreign crims, interrogation, imprisonment, escape and a slightly improbable turning of the tables.

PAYBACK involves a bereft Yemeni warload through his Iranian contacts, tracking down posh mummy's boy, Hamish and setting up an elaborate sting to snare Hamish's mother. Revenge is sweet and in this case fairly brutal.

GROWER .. drugs, redundancy, family secrets, a girlfriend on the side, a new career, people traffickers, death, and more.

I enjoyed all the stories. Maybe the second one dragged on a bit, though I found it the funniest of the three. There's something about the posh, plums in the mouth, silver-spoon brigade that gets my rag. 

Interesting characters, decent set-ups, satisfying payoffs. What else do you need?

My first time with author Guy Portman, but probably (time allowing) not my last. 

3.5 from 5

Read - March, 2021

Published - 2021

Page count - 164

Source - review copy via Voracious Readers

Format - Kindle

Wednesday 17 March 2021




From the author:

This is the third novel Donald E. Westlake and I did in collaboration, SIN HELLCAT, and I think it may have been the best of the three—but we didn't get to put a joint byline on it. Well, we did—but someone at Nightstand felt free to change it, dropping Alan Marshall from the "by Alan Marshall and Andrew Shaw" byline we'd supplied. Much the same thing happened to CIRCLE OF SINNERS, my collaboration for Nightstand with Hal Dresner; "By Andrew Shaw and Don Holliday" is what we tagged it, and this time it was Andrew Shaw who got bumped.

Well, it's corrected now. SIN HELLCAT, like its fellows, has both names on the cover. And our names, not the ones we donned for our work in the world of paperback erotica.

When the two of us were starting out as writers, we both served an apprenticeship writing erotic novels for Harry Shorten at Midwood Books and Bill Hamling at Nightstand. (I was Sheldon Lord for Midwood and Andrew Shaw for Nightstand, while Don was Alan Marshall for both publishers. Note though that the presence of either name upon a book is no guarantee that one of us wrote it. Both of us made arrangements whereby lesser writers would submit works under our names—and I know it's hard to believe that any writers were less than we were back then, but it's true.)

Well. We'd become friends in the summer of 1959, while we were living a few blocks away from each other in midtown Manhattan. I was at the Hotel Rio, on West 47th between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, and Don was a block south and several blocks west of me. Then I moved back to my parents' house in Buffalo, and Don and his wife and kid moved to Canarsie, and we wrote letters back and forth.

And at one point we decided it might be fun to do a novel together. Not by thinking it out and talking through it and, you know, collaborating in a serious artistic manner. Our method was simpler. One of us would write a chapter, and then the other would write a chapter to come after it, and back and forth, like that, until we had a book.

It worked, and by God it was fun. The first of our efforts was A GIRL CALLED HONEY, and it started when I wrote a chapter and sent it to Don. And so on, and we stopped when we had a book and sent it to Henry Morrison who sent it to Harry Shorten. We put both our names on the book, our pen names that is to say, and that's how Harry published it: by Sheldon Lord and Alan Marshall. And he included our dedication: "To Don Westlake and Larry Block, who introduced us."

It was so much fun that we did it again. This time Don wrote the first chapter, and I wrote the second. Was I still in Buffalo, and did we still send the chapters through the mail? Damned if I can remember. I think I may have been in New York by then, living with my first wife on West 69th Street. But maybe not, and what does it matter? We finished the book, we sent it in, Midwood published it, and we shared the advance, which was probably $600 for A GIRL CALLED HONEY, but may have escalated to $750 by the time we did SO WILLING. So each of us wound up with either $300 or $375 for our trouble, and that's not a lot of money nowadays, and it wasn't a lot of money in 1960 either, but neither was it a lot of trouble.

Damn, those were good days.

Never mind. Here's SIN HELLCAT—and if reading it brings you a small fraction of the fun we had writing it, you'll be back right away to scoop up A GIRL CALLED HONEY and SO WILLING.

I quite enjoy visiting Lawrence Block's early books. I think the intro-back story to the books entertain me even before I've delved into the book itself. And if it's Audible and Theo Holland narrating.... well Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!

Here there's a collaboration between Block and Donald E. Westlake from back before I was even born.

Man and woman, a boring, frustrating marriage - she's frigid and scared of sex, so he eventually hooks up with an old girlfriend in the big city where she works as a prostitute. Before too long he's involved in a smuggling operation to South America. The end.

No, obviously it's a little bit more fleshed out than that. We have some college days, and work days, and courtship and marriage days after a hilarious honeymoon, and before it all goes wrong. Well it was probably wrong from the start, our main man just hadn't recognised it or admitted it to himself. 

Things get a little bit more exciting after that..... smuggling, bonding, a burgeoning relationship and a proposition with an outcome, which you kind of think might lead to a happy ever after scenario for the main characters in this little drama. 

The thing with Block (and here Westlake as well) is that even when not much is happening I'm never really bored. I've more experience reading Block, but he could keep me on the edge of my seat with his shopping list. 

Best book ever? No, far from it. But it did exactly what it was supposed to do...... entertained and amused and while I was listening to it, some otherwise drab and dreary commuting, work and/or exercise time went just that little bit more swimmingly.

3 from 5

Read - (listened to) January, 2021
Published - 1962
Page count - 182 (4 hrs 41 mins)
Source - Audible purchase
Format - Audible

Tuesday 16 March 2021


 I guess there are worse things to be addicted to than acquiring books....

                                   D.P. Lyle - Skin in the Game (2019) - purchased copy

I've a few from Mr Lyle on the pile, but haven't read him yet, including the second in his Cain/Harper series. 

Raised as siblings by an itinerant “gypsy” family, knife expert Bobby Cain, trained by the US military in the lethal art of covert eliminations, and Harper McCoy, nurtured by the US Navy and the CIA to run black ops and wage psychological warfare, are now civilians. Of a sort. Employing the skills learned from the “family” and their training, they now fix the unfixable. Case in point: Retired General William Kessler hires the duo to track down his missing granddaughter, a Vanderbilt University co-ed. Their search leads them to a small, bucolic, lake-side town in central Tennessee and into a world of prostitution, human trafficking, and serial murder. The question then becomes: Will their considerable skills be enough for Cain and Harper to save the young woman, and themselves, from a sociopath with “home field” advantage, a hunter’s skills, and his own deeply disturbing agenda?

“Skin in the Game is The Most Dangerous Game on steroids. Fast, relentless, and cunning.”
—David Morrell, New York Times Bestselling Author of Murder as a Fine Art

                              Scott Grand - The Girl With the Stone Heart (2020) - purchased copy

Another new-to-me author via favourite publisher, All Due Respect Books

Winter has set in a small town on the California coast and a fishing vessel has been lost amongst the gray waves. Grace runs the bowling alley and ghosts through his own life. He lives in the layer of fat between the underbelly and society. He completes tasks given to him by the people who run the town and is grounded only by his aging grandmother and her weekly bingo trips.

Grace is charged with issuing payments to the fishermen’s widows. He pulls on his funeral suit and borrows his grandmother’s New Yorker. When Grace is unable to find one woman, he uncovers something that threatens the oligarchy’s reign and his way of life.

                                 J. R. Lindermuth - Blake's Rule (2018) - purchased copy

An author I have actually read and enjoyed before, but not any of his Westerns. Shares the Darkness from his Sticks Hetrick series was enjoyed back in 2017

Blake’s rule has always been to do what’s right…not what’s easy.

Range detective Sam Blake is after cattle rustlers—but when a beautiful woman is accused of murdering her employer, he has to step in and see justice done. Miriam had her reasons for the brutal killing, and though she’s not talking, Blake understands there’s more to this crime than meets the eye.

When the local sheriff, James Fremont, asks Blake to spirit Miriam and her two children out of town before a lynch mob comes for her, he agrees. But Cyrus Diebler, the influential rancher who is intent on seeing her pay for her crime, is not about to be stopped. He will go to whatever lengths he must to see her dead, though it means putting his own family in harm’s way.

As Blake and Miriam stay one step ahead of the relentless Diebler and his deadly henchmen, a relationship begins to build between them. When Blake learns the real story behind the murder, and the dark secrets of Diebler’s motivation to see Miriam dead, he vows he will protect her and her children at all costs—even if it means his own life.

                                        Andy Rausch - American Trash (2020) - purchased copy

Off the back of just two books read and really enjoyed, Andy Rausch is one of those authors whose books I'll buy when I see them drop, regardless of what they might be about.

Bloody Sheets which was on the blog yesterday, blew me away.

“Rausch's writing is like a serpent. It's lean. It's clever. It coils around you...and then it strikes. It's glorious, but be warned—there is no anti-venom.” - Chris Miller, author of Dust

Reminiscent of Goodfellas, American Trash is a gritty tale of organized crime. Only in this story, it is not the Italian mafia; it is the largest crime organization in the state of Missouri.

Running their operation out of Funland - a stationary carnival outside Branson - these violent criminals are carnies by day, killers by night.

They are led by a hardened old criminal known as Reverend Sammy, who doubles as a minister, and there seems to be no stopping them. But when things go awry and bodies start piling up, who will be the last man standing?

“Reading Andy Rausch is like waking up with a stranger in your bed - it'll shock the hell out of you, but it's always one hell of a story.” - Clark Roberts, author of Led By Beasts

                                    T R Pearson - Confederate States (2020) - purchased copy

Another author who writes them faster than I can read them. East Jesus South was pretty damn good.

The mysterious contents of a discarded lunchbox lead to a collision of ten unlikely souls in this story of frayed partnerships, derailed ambitions, and casual bad faith. A bittersweet and all too human comedy from the author of A Short History of a Small Place, Cry Me A River, and Sleepaway.

                                          Parnell Hall - Chasing Jack (2020) - purchased copy

Parnell Hall sadly died late last year. He was the author of the Stanley Hastings series of books, of which I've read the first - Detective - and absolutely loved. Chasing Jack, his last novel is a standalone. 

A relentless, darkly-funny thriller by Parnell Hall, the New York Times bestselling author of the Puzzle Lady series. Two killers are leaving a trail of mutilated corpses across Manhattan... while hunting a mysterious man with a name so common, they may never run out of victims. They are pursued by a disgraced cop, dying of cancer and desperate for redemption. Caught in the middle, but unaware of it, are a tabloid reporter and the cast of a troubled Broadway play facing a terrifying battle for their lives.

"Chasing Jack is what you'll find if you look up 'Black Humor' in your Funkin' Wagnalls. The wit is savage, the pace relentless. Parnell Hall, always outstanding, has never been better." Lawrence Block

"Parnell Hall has long been one of my favorite crime fiction writers.  Chasing Jack is his best yet." Harlan Coben

Monday 15 March 2021




When a young black man is lynched in a small Alabama town, his estranged father — a crime world enforcer — sets out for revenge, embarking on a blood - soaked journey that will leave the ravaged bodies of dead Klansmen in his wake.

"Rausch unleashes a flurry of gut-punches both painful and thrilling, his prose brimming with righteous anger and stark, no-bullshit wit. This racially charged and crackling tale reads like a startling mash-up of Jim Thompson and Iceberg Slim, making Bloody Sheets that rare achievement: hardboiled and hard-hitting, but transcendently heartfelt as well." - Wesley Strick, screenwriter of Cape Fear.

“Andy Rausch’s prose is passion filled rage incarnate. ‘Bloody Sheets’ is a must read revenge tale, drenched in catharsis and blood. The dialogue is lively and energetic, full of just the right balance of humor and hate. It shows the timeless tragedy of racial injustice in America that’s been present for centuries and it does something about it. ‘Bloody Sheets’ tackles America’s racial divide with the same composure and intensity of recent works like ‘Get Out.’” - Billy Chizmar, author of Widow's Point.

"Bloody Sheets by Andy Rausch is a violent and powerful crime drama choc-full of great characters and crackling dialogue." – Paul D. Brazill, author of A Case of Noir.

Brutal, violent, intense, funny, and not just a little bit sad. A Mississippi Burning on steroids, only our truth seeker and harbinger of justice on this occasion is our lynching victim's father and he's no angel himself.

Putrid, ugly racism in all its forms and exagerrated here to the nth degree is at the heart of this short, powerful novella. Rausch shows his contempt for this form of discrimination by mocking the unenlightened and visiting on them seven kinds of hell in the form of Coke and his best friend sidekick. 

Love, loss, regret, mistakes, small town ugliness, a young couple in love testing the boundaries of what will be allowed to stand, hate, vitriol, a lynching, death, bereavement, police corruption, discrimination, the KKK in action, a deputy's loose wife - the town bike, and lots more besides - in particular Vengeance with a capital V.

Story - tick, characters - tick, setting - tick, pace - tick, outcome - no happy ending, but a justice of sorts - tick, length - tick.

Very, very good. Very, very full on. Very much an in your face read, but not without moments of genuine humour that cracked me up. My kind of book. 

I bought a copy of this a year or two ago in paperback, but had the chance to listen to it on Audible. The narration added another layer of enjoyment to what would have been a fantastic outing in any format.

5 from 5

I've enjoyed Andy Rausch's work before - Ridng Shotgun and Other American Cruelties. I look forward to more from him again.

Read - (listened to) February, 2021 

Published - 2019

Page count - 99 (3 hrs 17 mins)

Source - Audible review copy from Henry Roi ( a purchased paperback sits on the TBR pile)

Format - Audible