Friday 30 April 2021



An aging hitman is embittered by his career choice at the point of no return. A shell-shocked soldier in World War Two finds hope through death, reflected in the eyes of his enemy. A serial killer confesses in veiled, lurching prose. A mobster unravels at the zero hour of this mortal coil. A man reevaluates existence after discovering a suicide. These are some of the twenty-nine dark, twisted, and gritty stories by Stephen J. Golds collected here for the first time — bound taut with thirty poems of loss, love, and other thoughts that haunt you after last call.

A thoughtful collection of stories and poems from Stephen J. Golds, one I probably rushed through reading (that's how I roll), as opposed to limiting myself to a handful a day, offering the opportunity more to dwell on them. I probably didn't give them the full attention they deserved.

Thoughts then ....

I liked the content and context of the stories. Most have crime elements at heart which is my preferred taste .... hitmen, mobsters, death, revenge, bars, drinking, women, regrets, mistakes, war, sickness, hold-ups, consequences. 

I enjoyed the references to real people and places woven into the stories ...... Bonnie and Clyde, Dillinger, Whitey Bulger, Sing Sing, Capone ... I'm guessing Golds is a student of the history of  American gangsters. 

Stand outs ... 

Brain Scan - a lot of heart, a lot of pain, and one which as a parent lingers 

Love Like Bleeding Out with an Empty Gun in Your Hand - the title piece and opening story.... love, regrets, death with a final sucker punch.  

Most were very good and had a pay-off. I can't recall any as such that left me cold and scratching my head. Too many to list.

Best line....

 "High school was the best acting studio. I observed the people there. Imitated them and their emotions. Their facial tics. They taught me to hide in plain sight. Education. Knowledge is power."

What was an unexpected pleasure was the accessibility of his poetry. I'll hold my hands up and admit that I have consciously tried to avoid reading poetry ever since school, with the odd exception of a bit of Bukowski encountered in some of his story collections. I think my aversion to it, stems in part from laziness and ignorance.

Lazy - the poetry foisted on me at school, was like reading a foreign language. One which very often demanded too much effort to translate and comprehend.

Ignorant - see above - lazy - I thought all poetry was the same, therefore required a bit of a body swerve to avoid. Rusty Barnes tells me I was probably poorly taught. 

Stephen Golds has opened my eyes a bit. His poems seemed very personal. More emotional than the short stories .... love, family, loss, pain, anger, joy... the man writes with his heart on his sleeve.

A collection I plan on re-visiting at a slower pace when life slows down a bit.

4 from 5 

My second time with Stephen J. Golds after recently enjoying the excellent novel Always the Dead

Read - April, 2021

Published - 2021

Page count - 289

Source - review copy from author

Format - PDF read on laptop

Thursday 29 April 2021


Six more into the collection.

                                         TR Pearson - Devil Up (2021) - purchased copy

An author whose books I usually buy when they drop, but don't read very often.
I loved his East Jesus South.

In the spring of 1879, a sixteen-year-old boy from the Virginia uplands finds himself alone on the Great Plains with a Colt Navy revolver and the family mule. What was meant to be a frontier adventure with two of his friends has turned into a solitary ordeal as he makes his way across a sparsely settled and largely lawless piece of the world. He’s bound for California and narrates his journey in harrowing and hilarious detail, telling the story of a farm boy from back east who becomes -- through pluck and heart and more than a little gunplay -- a man.

       James Hardy - Courage (2021) - review copy received from publisher, Dark Edge Press

Not usually one for serial killer books, but this one has some appeal. Intriguing set-up.

Joanne Sinclair wants Leroy Martin's help to find a serial killer dubbed the Dorking Devil. The problem is, he's a criminal who spent two years in prison and she's the detective who helped put him there.

The unlikely duo team up to find the man and bring him down and, surprisingly, they make a good pair. But it isn't long before Leroy's past catches up with him, putting them both in grave danger.

             Malcolm Hollingdrake - Syn (2021) - review copy courtesy of pubisher, Hobeck Books

An author I've been meaning to try for a while.

Retribution and Time

An everyday Friday night out. A few too many drinks.

A few harsh words said. No one was hurt.

All easily forgotten.

Both can heal

Except he didn’t forget. Their threats. How they made him feel…

They must pay - with their lives.

But one will always leave a scar…

A young woman goes missing. She’s done it before, but Detective Inspector April Decent senses this time it’s serious. Can she convince her colleagues she’s right before it’s too late?

Decent and her DS Skeeter Warlock face their most deadly opponent yet in Syn, the second novel in Malcolm Hollingdrake’s superb Merseyside Crime Series.

                  Craig Terlson - Surf City Acid Drop (2018) - Amazon Freebie purchase

Another new-to-me author

In between happy hours at the El Rayo Verde, Luke Fischer is hired to find people – even when he denies that he is a detective.

When Luke finds a dead junkie in his hotel room, he knows his lazy days of Mexican beer, surf rock, and Cholula soaked peanuts are about to end. Fearing the local policia will tie him to the murder, Luke bolts from Puerto Vallarta and abandons his search for his client’s wandering brother.

When Luke runs into a thug known as Mostly Harold, who has a fondness for lizard boots and Burt Bacharach, he discovers that he is not the only one looking for his client’s brother. Luke chases leads into Colorado Springs, the hazy mountains of Missoula, and all the way to the street life of Montreal. Along the way, Luke finds out the truth about his client, and why someone would pay a fortune for a bag of stolen rocks... but more importantly, why he was really hired.

             Ryan Sayles - It's Ugly Because it's Personal (2021) - purchased copy

An author I've read before, usually in anthologies - Junk, Maybe I Should Just Shoot You in the FaceExiles: An Outsider's AnthologyTrumpocalypse: A Total Disaster - but also his double helping with Chris Rhatigan - Two Bullets Solve Anything

In the city of Carcasa, gunshots devastate the night as a patrol officer makes a traffic stop. The occupants—three dealers caught in the act of muling—set into motion a course of actions that can only end badly. Now, one is dead, another fleeing on foot and the third tearing through neighborhoods in a bumper car-style chase. Furious, grief-stricken officers on their heels with their brother fighting for his life on the side of a road.

The shooter escapes, and the PD begins their hunt to find the shooter before he lucks out, fades into memory. With what information they have, they dig; the dirt that is the shooter’s life getting thrown over their shoulders by the shovel-full. Family, friends, employment, any avenue of refuge for him begins to burn. Things get complicated along the way. The kind of complicated that goes into a body bag. The art of flushing out the enemy is a sacred practice, best done with smoldering rage.

But, after a man has nowhere to hide, having him out in the open might be worse.

      Kotaro Isaka - Bullet Train (2021) - review copy from Edelweiss - Above the Treeline

I'm still searching for the elusive banging Japanese crime novel, not that I've looked that hard. Maybe this is the one.

Five killers are on a bullet train from Tokyo competing for a suitcase full of money. Who will make it to the last station? An original and propulsive thriller from a Japanese bestseller.


Satoshi looks like an innocent schoolboy but he is really a viciously cunning psychopath. Kimura's young son is in a coma thanks to him, and Kimura has tracked him onto the bullet train heading from Tokyo to Morioka to exact his revenge. But Kimura soon discovers that they are not the only dangerous passengers onboard.

Nanao, the self-proclaimed 'unluckiest assassin in the world', and the deadly partnership of Tangerine and Lemon are also travelling to Morioka. A suitcase full of money leads others to show their hands. Why are they all on the same train, and who will get off alive at the last station?

A bestseller in Japan, Bullet Train is an original and propulsive thriller which fizzes with an incredible energy as its complex net of double-crosses and twists unwinds to the last station.

Wednesday 28 April 2021


 Another dirty half dozen into the collection....

David Downing - Wedding Station (2021) - review copy from publisher, Old Street Publishing

A series I have been meaning to try for a while.


Berlin, February 1933. John Russell watches the Reichstag burn, but it's no scoop, even for a crime reporter. Four weeks after Hitler's accession, brownshirt mobs stalk the streets and the press prints what the Party tells it. Russell, a former communist with a British passport, should be packing his bags, but while family ties bind him. Meanwhile, his assignments draw him closer to the savage heart of the new regime -- and the story that only ends one way.

                                                 Chris Miller - Dust (2020) - purchased copy

One of a series of nine Splatter-Westerns, whatever they are. I expect I'll find out soon.

1879: An unknown and timeless evil descends on East Texas. James Dee, bestowed with knowledge from beyond, moves through time and space, pursuing age-old horrors and ending their reign. As he seeks the hidden town of Dust to continue his lifework, another is hot on his heels, and will stop at nothing to rip the divine knowledge from Dee.As these opposing forces collide, Dee becomes both hero and villian in his quest against the Elders.He doesn't have time to be sorry--THERE ARE GODS TO KILL

(All Splatter Western books are stand-alone stories. Read them in whatever order you please!)

                Jay Bonansinga - Saint Oswald (2021) - review copy via Net Galley 

Hit-man novel, what's not to like?

Oswald Means has had a tough life. Being a low level hit-man for the Chicago mob was not his first choice of career, and yes, the occasional phantoms of his victims do bother him. But being married to Matilda, the love of his life, has kept him going. Now her cancer has caught up to her and their time together is up.

Oswald had always kept his job a secret from his wife: she’s a free spirit with a spiritual side, and would be horrified if she knew. But to his shock, as she lies dying she tells him that she knows what he does. And that her dying vision is that they can only be together in the afterlife if Oswald saves as many lives as he has taken. Oswald is devastated at the thought of losing her for eternity. And he doesn’t even know how many targets he’s hit.

So, Oswald makes a plan to save people. He has a few false starts: - dealing with people who may or may not want to be saved - that lead to darkly comic confrontations on bridges and rooftops. But then he gets a great idea, an idea that might solve all his hit-man problems . . . .

            Lawrence Block - After Thoughts: Version 2.0 (2021) - purchased copy

I'd read his shopping list and have a great time..... 

Lawrence Block on AFTERTHOUGHTS 2.0:

AFTERTHOUGHTS began in 2011, when I first began self-publishing titles from my voluminous backlist. I packed it with forewords and afterwords and essays and articles about the work, and arranged for its distribution as an ebook. Here's what the publisher had to day about it at the time:

"In a career spanning more than fifty years, Lawrence Block has produced more than one hundred books, ranging in genre from hard-boiled detective stories to pseudonymous erotica. Collected here for the first time are more than forty-five afterwords from the works that made him a master of modern fiction. Each afterword is an insightful reflection on the experiences that have brought Block’s fiction to life, from the lessons he learned as a reader at a literary agency to the unlikely—and semi-autobiographical—origins of the acclaimed Matthew Scudder series. Witty and inspiring, Afterthoughts is a must-read for Block fans and mystery lovers alike."

The book was well-received. Then, five years later, my relationship with an online publisher had run its course, and the useful little book went out of print. I kept thinking I ought to do something about it, but I kept finding other things to do.

Now I've finally put in the hours to update and expand it, and I've called the result AFTERTHOUGHTS: VERSION 2.0. I think you'll find it at least intermittently informative and entertaining, and hope it may lead you to make the acquaintance of some of my less familiar work.

  Craig S. Zahler - The Slanted Gutter (2021) - review copy from Net Galley

Looks like my cup of tea.

Take a roller coaster ride through the gutter in this gripping pull-no-punches thriller from S. Craig Zahler

He knows what you'll do - including what you'll sacrifice for protection.

Darren Tasking is an entrepreneur whose business is people, and when it comes to people he specializes in risk, pleasure, and fear.

He knows what will break you - before you even feel a second of pain.

Tasking has everything and everyone, in his orbit, under control. If there's something he wants he will alter your life, elaborately and maliciously, until you yield to his wishes.

He knows what makes the Machos tick - and how to keep them in the dark.

The police tried to keep Tasking down with their macho modus operandi, sent him away long ago, but they couldn't keep him incarcerated forever. Now he's older, uncommonly careful, and keeps the machos oblivious to his enterprises. But when he meets a dancer named Erin Green at the Cherry Red strip club everything changes.

He knows the streets of Great Crown, Florida can only be dominated by the remorseless insights of a relentless slick like him.

The brothels and gambling parlors secreted behind iron doors keep the slick autonomous and successful, but Erin proves to be the variable that could put him on a collision course with unrepentant sadists, machos, and a trap created by the slick's own extortionist machinations.

The Slanted Gutter is a devastating character study painted with the darkest shades of noir, penned by a hand as unflinching as Tasking's steely-eyed pursuit of his large dollar goal, as unforgiving on the reader as those who seek retribution against the slick for his nocturnal misdeeds.

Step into this gutter at your own risk.

Chip Jacobs - The Darkest Glare (2021) - review copy via Edelweiss - Above the Treeline

A bit of true crime for a change.

Late-seventies Los Angeles was rampant with killers and shady characters, but all the go-getters at Space Matters saw was possibility. Richard Kasparov was handsome and charismatic; his younger associate, Jerry Schneiderman, brilliant and nerdy. When the pair hired a veteran contractor to oversee construction, the space planning firm they operated out of a hip mansion in LA’s Miracle Mile district appeared poised to transform the boundless skyline into their jackpot.

After the promising team imploded, however, the orderly lines on their blueprints succumbed to treachery and secrets. To get even, one of the ex-partners launched a murder-for-profit corporation using, among other peculiar sorts, a bantam-sized epileptic with a deadeye shot and a cross-dressing sidekick. The hapless criminals required a comical number of attempts to execute their first target. Once they did, on a rainy night in the San Fernando Valley, the surviving founder of Space Matters was thrown into a pressure cooker existence out of a Coen Brothers movie. Threatened for money he didn’t have, he donned a disguise, survived a heart-pounding encounter at the La Brea Tar Pits, and relied on an ex-Israeli mercenary for protection. In the end, he had to outfox a glowering murderer, while asking if you can ever really know anyone in a town where dirty deals send men to their graves.

In The Darkest Glare, Chip Jacobs recounts a spectacular, noir-ish, true-crime saga from one of the deadliest eras in American history. You’ll never gaze out windows into the dark again.

Tuesday 27 April 2021



Synopsis/blurb ....

Set on a luxuriously appointed and hopelessly corrupt Army base in Mannheim, Germany, where the soldiers prefer real-life race riots to mock combat, Robert O'Connor's viciously funny novel is conclusive proof that peace is hell and the U.S. Army is its ninth circle.

In that hell, Specialist Ray Elwood is the ultimate survivor: a high-stakes drug dealer, bureaucratic con artist, and shrewd collector of other people's secrets. Elwood is contemplating cleaning up his act, although doing so will require one last, epic heroin deal. But of course it's then that his life will careen totally out of control. With its impeccably rendered cast of sycophants, drug burn-outs, and uniformed sociopaths, Buffalo Soldiers give us a scabrous, haunting vision of a military idled by the New World Order--and at all-out war with itself.

Second time around for this one after probably reading it twenty plus years ago. I kind of wonder why I kept it as while I enjoyed it second time around I wasn't dazzled by the prose or the story and there was nothing especially earth shattering about either.

The US army in Germany, and what does an army do in peace-time? Lots of drinking, drugging, whoring and fighting if Ray Elwood and his band of brothers is anything to go by. 

Ray deals drugs. He has a close knit clique surrounding and protecting him, but a new Sergeant in town has Ray in his sights. Scheming and manouevering, skirmishes involving the Sergeant's daughter initially as a pawn in the battle, latterly as Rays' love interest and reason for one last big deal before getting out and plans together. There's a lot of racial tension in the book also - black vs white. Sometimes overlooked when profit is at stake.

Violent, funny, sad, a bit depressing. I read it long enough ago that I could remember the outcome in advance of re-reading it. Suffice to say - no happy ending.

3 from 5

Not one I anticipate reading a third time. Seem to dimly recall watching the film of this featuring Joachim Phoenix some years ago. 

Read (re-read) - April, 2021
Published - 1993
Page count - 336
Source - owned copy
Format - paperback


Monday 26 April 2021



Synopsis/blurb ...

During the sizzling hot summer of 1976 in Liverpool, teenager Tommy Dwyer is rapidly approaching adulthood and dealing with the usual coming of age issues: temptation, gang violence, murder and helping to prevent the flooding of the streets with illegal drugs

A cross between a crime story and a coming of age tale as we spend part of the summer of '76 in the company of Tommy Dwyer. My memory of that year has diminished over time, but author Terry Melia's obviously hasn't. I believe it was one of the driest, hottest summers on record.

Romance, gangs, rivalries, tear-ups, GBH, friendship, family, depression, emigration, Bruce Lee, burglaries, stolen goods, unemployment, a man's best friend, a camping trip to Wales, fights, friction, another romance, a death, the police, confessions, criminal enterprise, a new life.

Tommy Dwyer is a love sick teenager and he's a bit of a lad - a scally. We follow his scrapes and adventures, which author Terry Melia presents with humour and affection. Dwyer's no-angel - just ask the tramp he crossed paths with - but his escapades make for great entertainment.

A very enjoyable outing, made a fraction better by some decent narration by David Hunsdale. I almost felt like a teenager again.

4 from 5 

Read - (listened to) April, 2021
Published - 2018
Page count - 213 (6hrs 33mins)
Source - purchased
Format - Audible

Sunday 25 April 2021



Synopsis/blurb ....

An eclectic collection of pulp, grit and noir stories inspired by the Capital Region of New York, a rust-belt crossroads in the shadow of the city that never sleeps. Here’s a trip led by fat slobs in smoky, vomit-stained cabs, heading to the oasis of the strip club on a street lined with rusted out factories, ventilated with beer cans and rocks. No heroes and villains in these pages, just shades of grey and characters making choices between bad and worse.

Tales of woe and macabre, the profane and ordinary dance with each other in a building where the forgotten stay, passing their street whispers like bottles from the bottom shelf.


“Liam Sweeny is my new favorite crime writer, hands down.” —CS Dewildt, author of Kill ’Em with Kindness

A thoughtful collection of short stories touching on .... loss, friendship, loneliness, forgiveness, mistakes, poor choices, consequences, love, romance, lust, sex, death, secrets, revenge, justice ..... set against a back drop of diners, bars, prison, a drive-in, the countryside, the border and a lot more besides. 

Crimes on offer are murder, arson, assault, theft, rape - probably
Sins commited - adultery, lust, envy, wrath, sloth 

It's an unusual collection insofar as each and every story satisfied me. Typically in a collection, one or two at a minimum, miss the mark and leave me cold. Not so here.

Personal favourites - Rats, Troll and White Trash on the Road to Canada.

The full collection comprises ....

The Gull Princess .... bereavement, anger, acceptance, forgiveness, melancholy, what parent wants to deal with the loss of a child

Last Night at Mesca's .... community over profit, debts need settling

Trustee ... a prison tale, strife and population control

Rats .... homelessness, friendship, camaraderie, death, message delivery

Felicity and High Midnight .... Handsy Harry and the pole dancing club, Harry gets his

The Ninth Step ... recovery, making amends

I Can't Just Let You Go .... friends, wives, girlfriends, fooling around, jealousy, scheming, 

Second Chances ... wrong crowd, drugs, crime, betting, poor choices, inattention, and opportunity lost
Drifter ... a man pays the price for inappropriate behaviour with a minor, consequences - a friendship lost, moving on

Happy Ending at the Jade Club ... a last lap dance

Troll ... an internet encounter with extreme consequences

Retired ... a cult, a second chance

White Trash on the Road to Canada .... an ill-advised road trip, might be the last one for a while 

A Gentleman's Game .... a chess match with a difference

Uncle Jerry's Outlaw Drive-In .... movies, history, connections to notoriety 

4.5 from 5

My first time reading Liam Sweeny but not my last. I'm looking forward to trying some of his longer works.

Read - March, 2021
Published - 2018
Page count - 164
Source - owned copy
Format - paperback

Saturday 24 April 2021


 Another half dozen....

                                         John Ritter - Fatal Conceit (2021) - Librarything

Copy courtesy of winning a Librarything giveaway

A cold-case homicide winds through a trail of murders to an international criminal conspiracy.

A new PI joins an eminent list, bursting with humor, pugnacity, and a leaky moral code, bent on one-upping San Francisco’s finest while wooing a prosecutor-turned-lover. A talented investigator, Beaupre muddles through his own hubris and missteps, leaving a trail of bodies and recrimination. Booted from the police force—for knocking a skinhead comatose and allegedly battering a girlfriend—he radiates confidence spiked with arrogance. Hired to find the killer in a moldy double murder, he sniffs out a drug trail, misreads a string of homicides, and not until he and a computer hacker sidekick track down a fugitive in Asia does the scope of a vast criminal conspiracy reveal itself.

                               Billy Connolly - Tall Tales & Wee Stories (2019) - purchase

A bit of light relief. I reckon we all need some of that.

In December 2018, after fifty years of belly-laughs, energy and outrage, Billy Connolly announced his retirement from live stand-up comedy. It had been an extraordinary career.

When he first started out in the late sixties, Billy played the banjo in the folk clubs of Scotland. Between songs, he would improvise a bit, telling anecdotes from the Clyde shipyard where he'd worked. In the process, he made all kinds of discoveries about what audiences found funny, from his own brilliant mimes to the power of speaking irreverently about politics or explicitly about sex. He began to understand the craft of great storytelling. Soon the songs became shorter and the monologues longer, and Billy quickly became recognised as one of the most exciting comedians of his generation.

Billy's routines always felt spontaneous. He never wrote scripts, always creating his comedy freshly on stage in the presence of a live audience. A brilliant comic story might be subsequently discarded, adapted or embellished. A quick observation or short anecdote one night, could become a twenty-minute segment by the next night of a tour.

Billy always brought a beautiful sense of the absurd to his shows as he riffed on his family, hecklers, swimming in the North Sea or naked bungee jumping. But his comedy can be laced with anger too. He hates pretentiousness and calls out hypocrisy wherever he sees it. His insights about the human condition have shocked many people, while his unique talent and startling appearance on stage gave him license to say anything he damn well pleased about sex, politics or religion.

Billy got away with it because he has always had the popular touch. His comedy spans generations and different social tribes in a way that few others have ever managed.

Tall Tales and Wee Stories brings together the very best of Billy's storytelling for the first time and includes his most famous routines including, The Last Supper, Jojoba Shampoo, Incontinence Pants and Shouting at Wildebeest. With an introduction and original illustrations by Billy throughout, it is an inspirational, energetic and riotously funny read, and a fitting celebration of our greatest ever comedian.

                             Charles Stanley Wiltshire - Buckland Gap (2016) - purchase

Specualtive punt. Sounds like my kind of book.

A can of lager, a cigarette and a well-placed scratch. Thus begins David's day. Being a hard geezer on the Buckland estate ain't easy, but David has the crown. He's got the girls, sprogs, flash car and the meanest headbutt in Portsmouth. His days are filled with crime filled sprees to ensure his obese mother has her requisite fags, booze and curry. But even a thug like David has aspirations and his foray into drug-dealing is seen as a step-up. But through a serious of increasingly violent events, David's kingdom erodes, unravels and culminates in an explosive finale. With shades of Clockwork Orange and Trainspotting, new author Charlie Wiltshire gives an unflinching, and often times disturbing, account of life on one of England's most difficult estates. From the details of pulling gear' to the politics of cancer in underclass patients, Buckland Gap asks if society can ever be saved. Even from itself. 

                                        Trace Conger - Mirage Man (2021) - purchase

An author I have enjoyed previously - The Shadow Broker 

Connor Harding is a Mirage Man for the New York mob. He’s smart, relentless, and a master of a trade that few people know exists. When it comes to solving problems for the underworld’s most dangerous criminals, he’s the go-to man. If you’ve got a problem, you want him on your side, but if you ARE the problem, you never want to meet him.

In Connor’s line of work, mistakes get you killed. Until now, the only mistake he made was thinking his past would never come back to haunt him. Connor’s professional skills are tested when, three years after leaving the criminal life and retiring into obscurity, an eager triggerman arrives at his home to kill him.

What begins with a dead man on Connor’s kitchen floor spirals into a high-stakes chase that takes him back to his New York City stomping grounds. There, he becomes entangled in a criminal power struggle, mob turf war, and a federal investigation that put his former boss in prison. Connor is determined to find those responsible for the attempt on his life and cancel the contract before someone else cancels him.

                                Desmond P. Ryan  - Man at the Door (2019) - purchase

Canadian crime. 3rd in a series I have yet to start

It all begins at 6:10 a.m. on a Friday morning when Glen Brebeuf calls demanding answers. He had reported his former lover, Elizabeth MacDonald, missing the previous day and Detective Mike O’Shea now finds himself cleaning up the mess that some rookie had made of the initial call.

Within hours, Mike takes over the investigation and is on the doorstep of the missing elderly woman’s home. Sibby Mac, as she is known to her friends, is not missing.

Sibby Mac has been murdered.

In Man At The Door, the third in Desmond P. Ryan’s Mike O’Shea Crime Fiction Series, Detective Mike O’Shea solves a homicide, juggles an increasingly complex personal life, and continues to hunt for the cop-killer who has remained at large for the past thirteen years.

Whether as a stand-alone or as your next step in this six-book series, Man At The Door will keep you reading far too late into the night following Detective Mike O’Shea through the twists and turns of a homicide investigation.

                             Lynda McDaniel - A Life for a Life (2016) - copy from author

Copy received after signing up to the author's website. I do need to read more female authors.

So begins this story of suspense and self-discovery set in the small mountain town of Laurel Falls, N.C. in 1985. After decades as a crime reporter in Washington, D.C., Della Kincaid thinks she's moved away from all the violence. But a walk in the woods changes everything.

The sheriff calls for what amounts to a coverup. Not so fast, Della argues. She's spent her life searching for the truth, and she's not about to stop now. Without her usual sources, she teams up with new friends, including her neighbor—Abit Bradshaw, a teenager struggling to find his rightful place in the world. Along the way, they encounter all kinds of interesting characters, including the best one of all—the lush natural setting of the N.C. mountains.

Will they find the truth before they become the next victims?

Can they make peace with their own lives?

You'll love this suspenseful story because who doesn't dream of second chances?

Find out why critics and readers are praising Lynda McDaniel's unique voice in mystery writing.

Get it now.

A Life for a Life is the first novel in the Appalachian Mountain Mysteries series by award-winning author Lynda McDaniel. If you like atmospheric settings, fascinating characters, and suspenseful investigations, you'll love this series. 

Friday 23 April 2021



Synopsis/blurb .....

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.

Another fast-paced one sitting read from publisher All Due Respect and a new voice for me to enjoy in Scott Grand. 

Small town secrets, an errand boy and some disruption to the normally smooth running of events. Ergo - blowback, fallout, mistrust and a reckoning followed by a resettling into familiar patterns. Everything changes, everything stays the same.

I enjoyed meeting Grace, the main protagonist. I liked his interactions with his grandmother and the other people in his life. I enjoyed seeing him unleashed and in action. I liked the setting and the tale. Decent writing, plenty of incident. Greed and money feature prominently. The outcome satisfied me. What else do I want from my reading?    

Some of author Scott Grand's shorter works sit on the TBR pile - Sport and Only Child. I'm looking forward to them.

4 from 5

Read - March, 2021
Published - 2020
Page count  - 104
Source - owned copy
Format - paperback

Thursday 22 April 2021



Synopsis/blurb ....

Dominick Prince has been a magnet for trouble his entire life. A series of poor life choices and their violent consequences have crushed his spirit. Desperate to outrun this burgeoning rage before it fully consumes him, Dominick accepts an offer he doesn’t trust from an old high school classmate. Dutchy Kent says he wants to make one last-ditch effort to prove his acting chops by mounting the New York City debut of a play based on one of Dominick’s stories, but the true story involves the real estate empire of a notorious Queens drug dealer and $1.2 million in cash. Dutchy would love to find that cash, but he needs someone else to do the dirty work, someone who attracts trouble and is easily manipulated.

Unfortunately for Dutchy, the Dominick he knew in school is gone. The Dominick who shows up at his office is bitter, twitchy, and repulsed by the trash heaps and junk yards of Long Island City that don’t fit into his vision of a New York debut. None of that matters to Dutchy though who continues with his scheme, unaware that every insult, every passive aggressive comment, and every physical intimidation pushes Dominick one step further toward his rapidly approaching breaking point.

A book that if I'm honest I liked but didn't love. I found it hard to get into the main character's head. Dominick Prince was kind of hyper and agitated throughout and as a result I didn't really vibe him.

After reading and looking into Bryon Quertermous' other works, I discovered this was his third Prince book, after Murder Boy and Riot Load. I think I would have been better served reading at least one of the earlier books in the series first. Funny enough I have a copy of Murder Boy on the Kindle.

I liked the setting. Who doesn't want to visit NY in their reading? We do go off on a road trip elsewhere during the course of the tale. Location forgotten. Detroit maybe?

Crimes are committed, money is stolen. There's some back story regarding Prince's wife who he killed apparently and her family. There's a shadow over him with some form of retribution looking.

Some parts of the story I liked, some parts were ok. I just never really felt any rhythm to the book and as a result it was a bit meandering for me, even when things were happening.

Plan of action - read Murder Boy and re-assess. Thumbs up, read Riot Load. Thumbs up, come back to this and a more positive outcome. Thumbs down, c'est la vie!

3 from 5

Read - March, 2021
Published - 2021 (though Goodreads seems to indicate it was published previously in 2017?)
Page count - 185
Source - owned copy
Format - Kindle

Wednesday 21 April 2021



Synopsis/blurb ....

They grew up together on the mean streets of Marseilles, where friendship means everything. They swore that nothing would break their bond. But people and circumstances change. Ugo and Manu have been sucked down into the criminal underworld of Europe's toughest and most violent and vibrant city. When Manu is murdered and Ugo returns from abroad to avenge his friend's death, only to be killed himself, it is left to the third in this trio, detective Fabio Montale, to ensure justice is done. Despite warnings from both his colleagues in law enforcement and his acquaintances in the underworld, Montale cannot forget the promise he once made Manu and Ugo. He's going to find their killer even if it means going too far.

In Izzo's hardboiled novels, Marseilles is protagonist: explosive, tragic, breathtakingly beautiful and deadly. Asked to explain the astounding success of his now legendary Marseilles Trilogy, Izzo credits his beloved native city: 'Essentially, I think I have been rewarded for having depicted the real beauty of Marseilles, its gusto, its passion for life, and the ability of its inhabitants to drink life down to the last drop.' Fabio Montale is the perfect hero in this city of melancholy beauty. A disenchanted cop with an inimitable talent for living who turns his back on a police force marred by corruption and racism and, in the name of friendship, takes the fight against the mafia into his own hands.

Europa Editions published Chourmo, the second installment in Izzo's Marseilles Trilogy, in 2006, and will publish Solea, the final book, in 2007.

A book I had been looking forward to for a long time - I've probably had a copy 10 years or so - and which I enjoyed but maybe not quite as much as I hoped to. I can't quite put my finger on why, either.

Three childhood friends. They grow up. They choose different paths after a shared 'event.'  Two carry on as before, progressing from youthful delinquents into full time low level criminals. The other becomes a cop. The inevitable happens. One dies violently, the other tries to avenge him, kills someone and is himself himself and then Montale the detective gets involved.

I enjoyed the setting of the book, Marseilles. I think it's the first time I have visited it in my reading. It's a tough, working class city, and a real melting pot of ethnicities and nationalities, some of which is a consequence of France's colonial past. Some from virtue of being a port. Probably like Liverpool with better food. The make-up of its population brings with it tension and mistrust and a there's a kind of superiority complex from some of the white French inhabitants, towards their Arab brethren. It's an attitude which seems to stem from authority and prevails through its policing. That said a lot of the police here aren't above rubbing shoulders with the criminal elements if it is profitable to do so. 

As a tale for justice and answers, I quite liked it. Montale with few allies, puts himself in danger seeking the truth. As a character, I didn't especially warm to him. Great detective, loyal friend, no career ambitions as such. His lack of corruptibility has probably put pay to any he may have harboured. He's quite solitary. He has lady friends, but shies away from any measure of commitment. It seems like he's navigating through life, just treading water.

Ok story, great setting, alright characters, reasonably satisfying outcome, just nothing overly electric for me. I will continue with the series and read books two and three eventually. Not rushing towards them though.

3 from 5

Izzo sadly died prematurely in 2000 at the young age of 54. 

Read - March, 2021
Published - 1995
Page count - 256
Source - owned copy
Format - paperback

Monday 19 April 2021



Synopsis/blurb ....

Time is running out...

When six-year-old Emily and four-year-old Lisa are abducted from their grandparent’s house, Detective Grant and psychologist Ruby Silver race against time to find them. 

The family have their fair share of enemies and when they receive a ransom demand from the kidnapper, secrets from the past come to light. Then a murder throws the investigation into turmoil as treachery and lies threaten to tear the family apart. 

Who is responsible for the abduction and why?

And could the answers lie closer to home than anyone ever imagined? 

My second recent encounter with Ann Girdharry's work in the past few months, this time with a police procedural/thriller as the detectives struggle to resolve the abduction of a couple of young girls - sisters, before serious harm befalls the older one. Emily, a six year old, as ascertained from video footage released by the kidnapper is seriously unwell. 

This is the third in the author's Detective Grant series, but worked well enough as a standalone. Luckily for me, as I haven't read any of the earlier books in the series.

I quite liked the book. There's mounting tension as the story progresses on several levels. 

Firstly, the time factor critical to rescuing the girls. 

Secondly, as the parents of the girl come under understandable scrutiny of the police.... dig into the family, get the history, search for a possible motive (money aside) why the family might be targeted, throw up a suspect .... cracks appear in the marriage. Secrets are uncovered, resentments and anger is released as the parent's turn on each other. 

Lastly, there is friction within the investigative team. Grant, the leader is under pressure for a result. Waiting in the wings is a rival officer, someone he has never gotten on with and who is seeking to undermine him. That this officer has a mole on Grant's team, something he has suspected for a while, doesn't help the investigation.

Decent storyline. Quite pacey, but not at the expense of adding flesh to the bones of character - police, family, villains and their relationships. I was convinced by the motive for the crime and the actions the gang took. No eye-rolling necessary.

I enjoyed the south London, Wimbledon setting with the odd venture further afield - Brighton from memory. I was satisfied by the outcome, where more than just the case gets settled.

Overall - an enjoyable read.

4 from 5  

Ann Girdharry has entertained me before - Chilling Tales of the Unexpected and Good Girl Bad Girl

Read - March, 2021
Published - 2021
Page count - 295
Source - review copy from author
Format - Kindle



Synopsis/blurb ...

After seeing Frank deliver an impressive ass kicking in a bar fight, Russian mobster Popov hires him to be his driver. What Popov doesn’t know is that when Frank is sober, he’s inhumanly fast, deadly, and mute; when Frank is on the sauce, he’s a useless twenty-something wiseass.

Double-crossed in a drug deal gone bad, Frank and Popov have one night to recover their stolen cash or get wiped off the map. Frank’s special abilities put him in the spotlight, and he struggles to keep it all together as Calendar, a dangerous Latina model, and Janie, a burgeoning love interest, go along for the ride.

Fast Bang Booze is a beat-the-clock thrill-ride that races through 1993 Los Angeles to a rollicking, deadly climax.


“Lawrence puts you right in the middle of a dangerous world full of seedy characters, sex, drugs and non-stop action without ever losing his grip on his incredible attention to detail and humor. I couldn’t put Fast Bang Booze down and I can’t wait to pick up his next one.” —Greg Garcia, creator of My Name is Earl, Raising Hope, and The Guestbook

Plenty of bang for my buck here with a fast-paced action-packed offering from Larry Maddox. All the ingredients that I like in my fiction were present..... outsiders, criminals, a drug deal, Russians, a rip-off, a double cross, a foxy female, a recovery mission and action galore... bar fights, shoot-outs, car chases and more.

I liked the main character, Frank. I liked the quirk of character, metabolism or genetics the author imbued him with. Sober - he's a fighting dervish and and a drooling mess who can't string a sentence together. Drunk - he's an articulate charmer but can't punch his way out of a paperbag.  There was a lot of scope for fun in this one where his sobriety and capabilites never seemed to be what was appropriate for the situation he found himself in.

Great fun. A good time was had. Another winner from publisher Shotgun Honey. 

Lawrence Maddox is an author to keep an eye on.

4.5 from 5

Read - March, 2021
Published - 2018
Page count - 156
Source - purchased copy
Format - paperback

Sunday 18 April 2021



Synopsis/blurb ....

An obscenely wealthy businessman, who has a strange relationship with his adult daughter, is running for President of the United States and intelligence agencies fear that he may be a Soviet puppet. Sound familiar? No, these aren't the Trumps. But in 1971, author Tom Ardies saw the future in a wild, political spy novel that has now become the perfect thriller for our time. 

American spy Charlie Sparrow is assigned to infiltrate tech businessman Davis Berwick Marshall's outsider campaign for President. The candidate's man-hungry, widowed daughter has just returned from overseas and Sparrow bears a striking resemblance to her late husband. Sparrow hopes to leverage that resemblance to get into Lisa's bed...and into the corrupt Marshall campaign. But can Sparrow reveal the truth before a possible Russian spy occupies the Oval Office?

"Innovative, deft and entertaining. " Chicago Tribune 

Not an author I had previously heard of before an introduction by Lee Goldberg of Brash Books, but after reading this fifty year old espionage tale from Tom Ardies, he's not someone I'll likely forget in a hurry.

A presidential election, a campaign of assassination, an undercover operation of infiltration, Russians, deep cover agents, doppelgangers, investigation, weasel-work, romance or part of the job, family, briefings, fake files, missing information, falsehoods, phone calls, a bungled attempt at a hit, kidnapping, witness elimination, plenty more and a fair few twists and turns before a satisfying outcome. 

Quite prescient with a premise of a potential Russian proxy as a US President. I liked the topicality of the story, though hopefully it's all yesterday's news and the bloated orange blob sticks to cheating at golf in future.

I do like espionage tales, where characters are chameleons, disguising their true intentions with deceit usually a second nature. Charlie Sparrow might be quite different to the typical spy as he harbours doubts and is in possession of a conscience. Not always the best things to have in the espionage game.

Story, pace, action, character, outcome - all plusses with the length of the book - under 200 pages another positive.

4.5 from 5 

There's a couple of other Ardies-Sparrow books in the offing - This Suitcase is Going to Explode and Pandemic. Hopefully I can catch up with both in the future.

Read - April, 2021
Published - 1971 (Brash Books edition 2021)
Page count - 190
Source - review copy from publisher Brash Books
Format - PDF read on laptop

Friday 16 April 2021



Synopsis/blurb ...

Vollmer’s a young guy, grows up on ugly streets. He survives by being uglier, hurting people for money, hurting people because he likes hurting people. When he’s hired to track down Dust and bring back the money he stole, keeping Dust alive isn’t a priority. Neither is keeping anyone else alive, even people he loves. Vollmer’s killed people he loves before.

With the Right Enemies is the bullet-drenched follow-up to Uncle Dust, Rob Pierce’s acclaimed debut novel about a bank robber’s disastrous fling with domestic life.


“A detailed and empathetic portrait of a personal struggle with demons we may not all face directly, but which always lurk beneath our carefully calculated covers. Pierce rips off that lid and exposes the common darkness of all our souls, whether we want to admit it or not.” —Will Viharo, author of Hard-Boiled Heart and Love Stories Are Too Violent For Me

My kind of book, which begs the question why I took so long to get around to reading it. A question for which there is no sensible answer, other than I have too many books competing for my attention. Sometimes the good ones get ignored.

With the Right Enemies is the second in Pierce's Uncle Dust series (three so far). The opener Uncle Dust was enjoyed a while back. Last year's third entry, Blood by Choice will be getting some love soon.

Dark, violent, gritty, raw, funny .... all positives in my book.

Decent story line - a man and some money goes missing. Our main character, Vollmer is sent to retrieve one or both. I think the money carries more weight. He's not the only one seeking Dust. The search takes him and them to other territories where other parties need to be approached and managed, either through a temporary alliance or through violence. Along the way there are casualties, innocent victims as well as players.

I liked the main character, Vollmer. We get his back story, we understand how he is how he is. Single-minded, capable, cunning, and probably lacking in anything close to compassion or warmth. Interesting and despite his ice cold blood, Pierce with his skills as a writer, has you rooting for him all the way. Even his brutality doesn't shift you from his corner. Nothing personal, in his world if you're an obstacle you will be removed.

Not a book for the faint-hearted. A book which hit all the right notes for me though.

4.5 from 5

In addition to Rob Pierce's Uncle Dust, I've enjoyed Tommy Shakes and Vern in the Heat. A collection of his short stories also waits on the TBR pile.

Read - March, 2021
Published - 2017
Page count - 234
Source - review copy from publisher All Due Respect (only 3 and a half years late)
Format - Kindle

Thursday 15 April 2021



Synopsis/blurb ...

On December 6, 1993, a drug dealer called Scrappy is shot and left for dead on the lawn outside her mother’s house in South Central Los Angeles. Augie, a heroin addict, witnesses the whole thing—before he steals all the drugs on her person, as well as the gun that was dropped at the scene. When Augie gets busted, he names local gang members Wizard and Dreamer the shooters.

But only one of them is guilty.

A search of Wizard and Dreamer’s premises uncovers the gun that was used in the shooting, and a warrant goes out for their arrest. They know it’s a frame-up, but the word from the gang is to keep their mouths shut and face the charges.

With these two off the streets and headed for jail, Dreamer’s friend Little, the unlikeliest of new gang members, is given one job: discover how the gun got moved, and why.

Played out in the streets, precincts, jails, and courtrooms of Los Angeles, Ryan Gattis's The System is the harrowing story of a crime—from moments before the bullets are fired, to the verdict and its violent aftershocks—told through the vivid chorus of those involved, guilty, the innocent, and everyone in between.

Short review - absolutely bloody brilliant. Pitch perfect.

Story, pace, characters, outcome, setting - place and time frame of the book, writing, presentation - alternating chapters from the perspectives of the main players - the accused, the witnesses, the defence, the prosecution. I do like books where the perspective shifts from one character to another.

An intriguing look at the justice system from the commission of a crime all the way through to the verdict and the aftermath. I was scared as the pronouncements came down and even afterwards I feared jeopardy towards one of the main characters. 

An intriguing look at gang life as well .... the codes, the rules, the boundaries, loyalties, hierarchy and expectations of members behaviour - even at the risk of great personal cost.

Absolutely loved it.                                                 

5 from 5

My first outing with Ryan Gattis, though definitely not my last. Some of his earlier books sit on the pile.

Read - March, 2021
Published - 2020
Page count - 411
Source - review copy from Net Galley
Format - Kindle



Synopsis/blurb ....

Sometimes the only way to understand evil is to plunge into it headlong - and just pray you don't drown.

People come to California's Huntingdon Beach in search of the endless party, the ultimate high and the perfect wave. Ike Tucker came looking for his vanished sister - and for the three men who might have murdered her.

In that place of gilded surfers and sun-bleached blondes, Ike looked into the shadows. He found parties that drifted towards pointless violence and joyless violations, highs that he might never come down from - and a sea of old hatreds that was wilder, deeper - and deadlier - than the ocean.

'Unique, colourful, suspenseful and mysterious. A very fine writing debut.'     Joseph Wambaugh

I first read this book maybe thirty years ago and decided it was a keeper. While details of the book have vanished from my memory over the years, and indeed probably in the month or so since I read it for a second time, there's an affection, connection and power that keeps me attached to the book.

Innocent boy, plunges headlong into darkness in search of some answers to his sister's disappearance, gets temporarily corrupted and just about escapes intact, scarred and probably a lot older than his years. I'm instantly reminded of Newton Thornburg's fantastic book, To Die in California, where hick farmer David Hook ventures into the belly of the beast for answers to his son's alleged suicide.

Nunn writes fantastically about the ocean, its power and moods, the attraction of its dangerous swells, the mastery of the surfers trying to temporarily conquer it. I'm incapable of articulating just how beautiful and powerful his writing is. You feel as if you are present and part of the scene. Haunting and totally mesmerising.

In addition to the depiction of the sea and the whole surfing culture, there's also the town of Huntingdon Beach itself ... a magnet for waifs and strays, not sure what they are looking for but finding something - drugs, joyless sex, victimhood, exploitation and in the case of Ike Tucker's sister something more permanent. The town attracts newcomers like a bright, shiny jewel, but behind the facade lies sleaze and decay and bitterness and loss and violence and pain.

There's a counter-culture to the surfers with an opposing biker set, and a rivalry founded in another death. Preston, a biker. Hound, a surfer. Both affected by the death of Hound's sister years ago. Former brothers, now enemies. With Ike, they are the three focal points of the novel. At different times Ike gets close to both, still seeking his answers, still ignoring the warnings and the danger.

I was really swept up in the story. I feared for Ike, as he uncovered the history between Preston and Hound, I almost felt bereft and definitely incredibly sad at how things soured between the pair. At one time almost kings of the world they lived in. 

Kings fight, the sun sets and rises, the world moves on, sometimes the players do, sometimes not.

I've seen this one described as a cult classic. I do know it's an absolute belter of a book. Hard to do it justice in a review.

5 from 5

I have more from Nunn on the pile and I'm pretty sure I've tried more of his books in the years after this one. I'm almost tempted to say this debut reached heights that his subsequent work never quite did, but until I've read or re-read Unassigned Territory, Pomona Queen, The Dogs of Winter and Tijuana Straits that would be harsh.

Read - March, 2021
Published - 1985
Page count - 320
Source - owned copy
Format - paperback