Sunday 31 October 2021



Synopsis/blurb ...

Author/poet/journalist Gabriel Hart compresses twenty pieces of his most turbulent 'world-burning' fiction spanning 2015-2020, including the previously unpublished American nightmare Artificial Midnight and Skattertown.

I'm a sucker for short story collections, though I seem to have an annoying habit of acquiring more than I ever get around to reading. An invitation to take a look-see at Gabriel Hart's debut collection was too good an opportunity to turn down. At least, I would actually feel compelled to read them!

Twenty stories and an author introduction where Hart explains the origins and timespan of this collection of work, some of which have appeared previously in anthologies and at literature sites I'm familiar with; Close To The Bone, Shotgun Honey, Bristol Noir, Pulp Modern and more than a few that I've never heard of. Most of the pieces were written during the author's 2020 Covid Lockdown.

For my sense of completism the full TOC is ....   

Straight to the Bone  
The Distant Prince 
Spun Pendulum  
Church of War 
Black Pit Blues 
The Gutter Runs Internally  
Wino’s Shadow 
Bottom’s Up 
The Space Between Two and Three 
Dear Diana Ranswell (Mom)   
Wrath Child’s Atrophy  
Kept Change 
Process of Elimination 
Closed for Take-Out 
The Visitor    
Artificial Midnight  
The All-The-Way House 
The Lonesome Defeat of Bridge Repair    

Relationships, sex, therapy, confession, super-dogs, drugs, intoxication, suicide, an Amy Winehouse wannabe, death, loss, grief, drugs, experimentation, consumerism, gender identity, a hit and the sub-contract, a mother's wisdom, Covid panic - guns, toilet rolls and a life of fear or not, dystopia - drugs, gangs, big business, economics

I really enjoyed the collection. Not every story did it for me. Maybe I rush read certain sections of the book at times, rather than reading them a bit more leisurely and thinking about the meaning of each tale. Maybe life's too short! I did like Hart's writing style though and none flat out had me scratching my head.

My favourites were Dear Diana Ranswell (Mom), Skattertown, Process of Elimination and Church of War. Gabriel Hart is an author I'll be keeping an eye out for in future.

4 from 5

Read - October, 2021
Published - 2021
Page count - 178
Source - review copy courtesy of Blackthorn Book Tours
Format - Kindle

Friday 29 October 2021


A couple from late Aussie great, Peter Temple. I do like Australian crime fiction, I just don't read enough of it.

Before he passed in 2018, Peter Temple had written nine novels, including 4 in his Jack Irish series and a couple in the Broken Shore series. 

A posthumous collection of stories, reflections and other snippets of his work - The Red Hand - was published in 2019. 

I've only read  three of his books - one of the Jack Irish novels years ago, The Broken Shore in 2010, An Iron Rose in 2019 and a short piece - Ithaca in My Mind 

Shooting Star (1999)

Anne Carson: fifteen, beautiful, wayward. Abducted. Her rich family has closed ranks and summoned Frank Calder, ex-soldier and disgraced police hostage negotiator. They want him to deliver the ransom money to the kidnappers. Frank wants them to call in the law, but the family refused, since police bungling nearly cost the life of another Carson child kidnapped years before. But are the two kidnappings connected? And is greed the motivation? Revenge? Or could it be something else? To find out, Frank Calder must go beyond his brief. As Frank feverishly searches for suspects in the web of Carson family businesses and deals, marriages and indiscretions, rivalries and intrigues, he knows that if his instincts are wrong, the girl will surely die.

Dead Point (2000)

It takes a lot to rattle Jack Irish but, as Melbourne descends into a cold, wet winter, his mood is on the same trajectory. The woman in Jack's life has reconnected with an old flame. He has gambled and lost massively and seen a champion horse put down. Worst of all, hijackers have robbed and brutally beaten one of the gambling team. So it's not surprising that Jack's mind is not fully on the job he's being paid to do: find Robbie Colburne, occasional barman. But when Jack does get serious, he finds that the
freelance drink-dispenser is of great interest to some powerful people, people with very bad habits and a distinct lack of respect for the criminal justice system...Any lapse in concentration could prove fatal.

Tuesday 26 October 2021



Synopsis/blurb ...

There’s a killer inside all of us…

After an elite criminal profiling unit is shut down amidst a storm of scandal and mismanagement, only one person emerges unscathed. Forensic psychologist Doctor Alexander Gregory has a reputation for being able to step inside the darkest minds to uncover whatever secrets lie hidden there and, soon enough, he finds himself drawn into the murky world of murder investigation.

In the beautiful hills of County Mayo, Ireland, a killer is on the loose. Panic has a stranglehold on its rural community and the Garda are running out of time. Gregory has sworn to follow a quiet life but, when the call comes, can he refuse to help their desperate search for justice?

Murder and mystery are peppered with dark humour in this fast-paced thriller set amidst the spectacular Irish landscape.

An enjoyable first outing with author LJ Ross and the opener to her Alexander Gregory series, Impostor.

A young married mother is murdered in a small village community in Mayo. The police are clueless and send for London based psychologist, Alexander Gregory to help build a profile of the killer.   

I enjoyed the setting for this one and Gregory's involvement in the investigation, which seems to be very much a family affair. The matriarch, Maggie Byrne is the town's mayor and her two sons, Niall and Connor work for different branches of the Garda Síochána and are heavily involved in the investigation - too close probably.

We have a further murder and Gregory's thoughts on the killer's motivation and issues. There's a flip-flop back to London and Alex's daily life and patient case load. Back in Ballyfinny, we have a growing list of possible suspects, including the Mayor's sons, a local priest and some other characters we meet from the small village.

When the revelation came as to the killer's identity, it wasn't someone I had previously considered, though it wasn't quite so left field that I felt the author had taken liberties. 

Overall, I enjoyed the story and the narration was good. The outcome was credible, the characters well developed and the book carried along at a decent clip. LJ Ross is definitely an author I'll be reading 
more of in the future.

4 from 5

Read - (listened to) October, 2021
Published - 2019
Page count - 311 (7 hrs 3 mins)
Source - Audiobooks
Fomrat - Audible

Monday 25 October 2021


Tony Knighton, author of the pretty amazing - A Few Days Away and Three Hours Past Midnight, was kind enough to submit to a bit of gentle questioning on his reading and writing habits. 

Both books were enjoyed earlier in the month and are highly recommended.


Is the book writing full time? If not, what's the day job and can you give us a quick biography of yourself?

I’m not a full-time writer. I’ve been a firefighter here in Philadelphia for the past thirty-six years. I worked on the side as a roofer for a lot of that time, as well. Before I got on the job, I did roofing and a lot of other things.

I’ve lived a few other places and was away for two years in the service. The rest of the time, I’ve been here in the hometown.

*I'm about to read your latest offering  - A Few Days Away. Can you pitch it to a potential reader in 50 words or less? (*Bloody loved it, one of my top reads of 2021)

A failed bank heist in a remote city left a thief injured, his partner dead and the money missing. After a couple other things didn’t pan out, he determines to return and find the money. 

I won’t give away any more than that.

You've written three books to my knowledge. This one, the fantastic Three Hours Past Midnight and a collection of short stories, Happy Hour and Other Philadelphia Cruelties - do you have a
favourite of the bunch?

I’d have to say this last one. I’d like to think I’m getting better as I go along.

Which one are you most proud of?

The same.

Which would you press into the hands of a new reader first?

I’m not sure. I’ve written my novels around a serial character, but I’ve taken pains to make them all stand alone. I started with the guy in a short story titled “Mister Wonderful,” that was published in my collection, Happy Hour.

Do you have a favourite format to work in? Novel, novella, short story?

I gravitate toward longer stuff. 

Initially, I never set out to write a novel. I’d written some short things but realized the new piece I was working on was forty pages long and nowhere near finished. I thought to myself, “Oh, shit. I’m writing a book.”

Can you remember what your first published piece was and when?

A story titled “Falling.” Published by Static Movement Online in 2007.

Do you have a typical writing schedule?

I did when I started to write seriously. I made a point of waking an hour early and using that time to write. I’m not on any schedule now but I was able to quit the side job a while ago and have more time.

Do you insert family, friends, and colleagues into your characters?

All the time, in varying degrees. 

When you have an idea and you sit down to construct your story do you know what the end result is roughly going to look like?

Oh, yes, I need to picture the end, early in the project. Failing that, I let the story rest until I do. I don’t have to know how I’ll get there, but I need to know where I’m going.

Are you a plotter, or do you make it up as you go along?

A bit of both, but I fall more into the plotter category.

Are there any subjects off limits?

I’ll neither write a rape nor a suicide scene. I’ve tried both and trashed them. Neither felt right. My stuff tends to be dark, anyway. I don’t mind something creepy, but it needs to be fun to read, and those weren’t

How long from conception to completion did A Few Days Away take? Was it a smooth process or were there many bumps in the road along the way?

That’s a difficult question. I thought about it as I was writing that first short story about the guy, and often since, but I knew he was too smart to go back and try to chase lost money. He recovered from his injury and took the job I wrote about in Three Hours Past Midnight. That also didn’t go the way he’d expected. I needed his frustration to overcome his better judgement before A Few Days Away felt right.

And yes, there was a big bump in the road and the story sat for a while.

Did the end result mirror your expectations at the start of the process, or is it a very different book to what you imagined?

It was fairly close to what I’d intended, at least the basic framework was. Making it work was the challenge. There were some integral scenes that I knew had to happen, but I couldn’t imagine what they would look like. I wrote around them until knew.

Was there one spark or germ of imagination which started the story off in your minds?

One that started the character, yes. As I mentioned earlier, I first wrote about him in my short story “Mister Wonderful.” It started with a visual—I saw the man alone in a car that had run off the road, tumbled down a hill and come to rest, upside down, in a shallow, icy stream. His collarbone is broken, and he hears a siren.

From that much, I wrote a story and two novels.

I've seen it marketed as a kind of second in series after Three Hours. What's the connection between the two books? Same protagonist or something else?

Same protagonist, two weeks later.

Your latest is published by Brash Books, who might also have republished your two earlier offerings.

(Brash is one of my favourite Indie publishers.) How did you hook up with those guys?

Yes, Brash Books has republished both of my earlier works, Happy Hour and Three Hours Past Midnight.

I found Brash when I started reading Ralph Dennis and his Hardman novels. I forget who told me about him, but I got the first in the series, Atlanta Deathwatch and loved it. I learned that Lee Goldberg had started Brash to republish the books. He did a really nice job with them. I heard other good things about Lee and Brash Books, so when A Few Days Away was ready, I wanted to try my luck. 

Are there any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer?

I have three unpublished novels. I wouldn’t call them gems. The first was pretty bad. The next two were better but I couldn’t get any play. 

I look at them sometimes, but I’m not too interested in doing anything with them. I’m on to different stuff.

What's the current project in progress?

My narrator will try to steal something in a New Jersey shore town. He’s going to have trouble.

What's the best thing about writing?

The best moments are when a character surprises you—really, you surprise yourself, but you’ll be pecking away at the keyboard, and it seems like they do or say something you hadn’t expected. When that happens, it feels like you’re on to something.

Ultimately, I’m writing for myself, trying to write something that I would have fun reading. When other people enjoy reading it too, it’s a blast.

The worst?

When you’ve been at a story so long that you can’t tell if you like it. 

If you’re writing short stories, or poetry, I suppose, you can wait for inspiration. If you’re writing a novel, you have to get to it, pretty much every day, whether you’re feeling it or not. The worst times happen on those days. It feels like work.

Moving on..

What are the last five books you've read? 

November Road by Lou Berney

True Fiction by Lee Goldberg

The Charleston Knife is Back in Town by Ralph Dennis

Orphan Road by my friend Andrew Nette (I got an early look at this)

The Burglar by Thomas Perry

and I’m looking forward to starting Every Hidden Thing by my friend and fellow smoke-eater, Ted Flanagan

Who do you read and enjoy?

Tons and tons of people. The usuals—Hammett, Thompson, Stark, Ellroy, George V., Perry, Barclay, etc. Lots of newer people. Matt Coyle. I just found out about Lou Berney and I’m loving his stuff.

Is there any one book you wish you had written?

Too many. I’ll get jealous if I list them.

Favourite activity when not working or writing?

Playing music. I’ve played out in bands for a few decades. I’m not very good but it’s great fun.

What's the last film you watched that rocked you?

I watched The Limey again. Twenty years old and still fresh. 

TV addict or not? What's the must watch show in the Knighton household?


I hope Bob Odenkirk is okay. I have to see the last season of Better Call Saul.

What are the last three pieces of music you've listened to?

Tower of Power - Step Up

Pat Ramsey and the Blues Disciples - Live at the Grand

Ray Charles - one of his Atlantic albums, I forget the name



What's your favourite vegetable?


When did you last have a fist fight?

In the service. I’m pretty sure I lost.

Have you ever been thrown out of a bar or a club?

Oh, yes.

Do you have any tattoos?

No. My mother always said, “Never get tattooed, son. It makes you too easily identified by the police.” Smart woman, my mother was.

What was your first pet's name?

I think it was a mutt named Reno.

What's the worst meal you have ever eaten?

In thirty-six years, there have been three firehouse meals I couldn’t eat. One was a stew cooked in a pot that hadn’t been rinsed after washing. We were all blowing Palmolive bubbles after the first bite. Another was some sort of seafood over rice, that was so salty it could have melted the polar icecap.

But the worst was a mysterious bowlful of something that I took one bite of. I put my money on the table, dumped the bowl in the trash and sat on the bench outside. I figured that way, if the ambulance had to come for me, I’d have a fighting chance.

Do you have any irrational fears?

No. All of my fears are rational.

What's your favourite vacation destination?

Wherever it is my wife wants to go.

When did you last tell a lie?

I never lie.

Many thanks to Tony for his time.

Catch him at his website - 

Or on Facebook - Tony Knighton

Check out either or both of his Nameless Thief books. Thanks me later!

A Few Days Away

A stunning, hard-charging new crime novel that evokes the best of Richard Stark, Lawrence Block and Thomas Perry.

"Knighton’s brilliant second Nameless Thief crime novel...Superior prose matches the clever plot, which takes unpredictable but plausible detours. Lou Berney fans will be enthralled." Publishers Weekly (STARRED Review)

On Valentine’s Day, a professional thief and his partner robbed a bank in a Central Pennsylvania town. It all went well... until the getaway. His partner was killed, the money was lost, and the injured thief barely escaped with his life. Now, four months later, he’s going back for his money. But he’s not the only one after it. Corrupt cops, warring street gangs, white nationalists and crooked politicians all agree on one thing – they want him gone. Permanently.

"He's very good, and he's a genuine Pennsylvanian. Knighton's A Few Days Away is hard-edged and suspenseful, with action that feels real and an anti-hero who can keep all the moving parts in his mind at once." Thomas Perry, New York Times bestselling author

"A must-read for aspiring criminals, who will learn that going straight offers a much simpler life. I was with Knighton’s anti-hero thief all the way, figuring whatever he netted from this caper, he earned it. Taut writing, crisp dialogue, non-stop action. What more could you want?" Linwood Barclay, New York Times bestselling author

"A Few Days Away is a tight, taught and tough crime novel where everyone's working an angle and hiding a secret. If you like your crime coming at you hard and fast like I do, Tony Knighton's latest Nameless Thief novel is right up your alley. A fast, gritty read." Matt Coyle, Anthony, Shamus and Lefty Award-winning author

"A Few Days Away is a hard-edged contemporary noir novel with a relentless anti-hero – a thief with no name. It’s a taut, pacy tale referencing Richard Stark’s Parker novels, but with even more icy cynicism. Knighton’s thief and his unswerving, self-declared righteousness will delight pulp fans." The Crime Fiction Lover Site (UK)

Three Hours Past Midnight

"A wonderful thriller. It oozes grit and swagger and leaves blood all over your hands." Ginger Nuts of Horror Blog

When a Philadelphia state senator is arrested for racketeering and held without bail, his ex-girlfriend reveals to a shady, retired cop that there's half-a-million dollars just sitting in his bedroom safe. The cop brings in a professional thief, who rips the safe from the wall and drops it out the window. It's a sweet score – but they're hijacked before they open it. The thief survives and tears through the city, going up against warring gangsters, bent cops, and a cold-blooded assassin to take back what's his – even if it means dying for it.

"A gripping and fast-paced thriller." Philadelphia Inquirer

"A knife sharp piece of Philadelphian noir. Recommended for all fans of fast paced, hard hitting crime fiction." Andrew Nette, Pulp Curry Blog

"There is a touch of Hemingway and Chandler in the writing. Hard-boiled noir thrillers don't come any better than this." The Toorak Times

Saturday 23 October 2021


Synopsis/blurb ....

On Valentine’s Day, a professional thief and his partner robbed a bank in a Central Pennsylvania town. It all went well... until the getaway. His partner was killed, the money was lost, and the injured thief barely escaped with his life. Now, four months later, he’s going back for his money. But he’s not the only one after it. Corrupt cops, warring street gangs, white nationalists and crooked politicians all agree on one thing – they want him gone. Permanently.

"He's very good, and he's a genuine Pennsylvanian. Knighton's A Few Days Away is hard-edged and suspenseful, with action that feels real and an anti-hero who can keep all the moving parts in his mind at once." Thomas Perry, New York Times bestselling author

"A must-read for aspiring criminals, who will learn that going straight offers a much simpler life. I was with Knighton’s anti-hero thief all the way, figuring whatever he netted from this caper, he earned it. Taut writing, crisp dialogue, non-stop action. What more could you want?" Linwood Barclay, New York Times bestselling author

Two word review. Bloody brilliant!

Fantastic story, great setting, an incredibly interesting main character, cracking pace, perfect length, satisfying outcome.

I always find criminals better company than straights. No exception here. A Few Days Away is busy, violent, and compelling. Really gripping. Our unnamed protagonist, first seen in Three Hours Past Midnight (another cracker of a book) doesn't have the best of luck on his jobs, with everything going sideways after a car accident. Money lost and a steely determination to get it back whatever the obstacles. 

Tony Knighton has three books two his name - the two belters in this series and a collection of short stories - Happy Hour and Other Philadelphia Cruelties. Do yourself a favour and check his work out. Thank me later.

5 from 5

Read - October, 2021
Published - 2021
Page count - 240
Source - review copy from publisher, Brash Books
Format - PDF read on laptop 


Synopsis/blurb ...

His last job a disaster, a professional thief teams with an old partner eager for one last score – a safe in the home of a wealthy Philadelphia politician. But they are not the only ones set on the cash. His partner dead and the goods missing, he hunts for his money and the killer to find out that this may have been a job best left undone.

“A pitch-perfect tale of crime and consequences. Just try and put it down before the last page. I dare you.” -- Charles Ardai Editor, Hard Case Crime

My kind of book. An unnamed protagonist steals a safe and things go downhill from there. His partner is subsequently murdered. The safe - contents unknown, money hopefully - goes missing and he himself is targeted and shot at. Our main man, sets out to recover his goods, over the course of an extremely busy night. No rest for the wicked!

Unsentimental, ruthless, capable, intelligent, determined and decisive - our nameless thief was interesting company for a bumpy ride around the dark streets of Philadelphia. Tony Knighton imbues his main character with just enough likability that I was rooting for him to succeed. While obstacles in his path are dispassionately dealt with, I never felt that his actions were gratuitous or that his victims were undeserving.

I'm a massive fan of the professional thief in my crime fiction and Knighton's anti-hero easily stands alongside some of my genre favourites - Stark/Westlake's Parker, Max Allan Collins and Nolan and more latterly SA Cosby's Beauregard Montage. Fortunately Tony Knighton has just recently had a second book published featuring the same guy - A Few Days Away. (Just as fantastic!)

Exciting, gripping and extremely satisfying. Highly recommended.

4.5 from 5
Read - October, 2021
Published - 2017
Page count - 192
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle

Brash Books have recently re-published this, along with the author's latest - A Few Days Away

Friday 22 October 2021


A couple from Colin Bateman, probably one of the funniest crime fiction authors I've ever read after Carl Hiaasen

I first crossed paths with his work in the mid-90s with Divorcing Jack and Cycle of Violence. I read a few more after that, and so did my son when he published some YA fiction, but like a lot of authors I've enjoyed, I haven't been able to keep up with him. I'm still tempted to buy his books when I see them in the wild. Maybe I ought to read the ones I have stock-piled, there's more than a few.

My 'books read' info at Goodreads - accurate since I started logging everything in 2010, tells me I haven't read him in over a decade.

His page at Fantastic Fiction lists over 40 books to his name, both YA and adult fiction.

Of Wee Sweetie Mice and Men (1996)

Fat Boy McMaster is a hopeless heavyweight boxer, but he has managed to become champion of Ireland, and his devious manager has succeeded in setting up a gigantic payday (largely for himself, admittedly) with a St Patrick's Day fight in New York against Mike Tyson. Journalist Dan Starkey is hired to write the book of the whole affair. Starkey tries to persuade his wife Patricia to give their marriage another try, but he has not succeeded before boarding the plane for the Big Apple with McMaster and his deeply suspect entourage. Once there McMaster's wife is kidnapped, almost every interest group is outraged, the Champ is chased all over town by gunmen of varying allegiance, Starkey's marriage is saved - and, yes, there is the Big Fight to consider too!

Murphy's Revenge (2005)

If you found the person who brutally murdered a loved one, what would you do? Forgive and forget? Or take the law into your own hands? Detective Martin Murphy is the law and he's back with a
vengeance..Someone has started killing the killers - who just happen to have been under the surveillance of 'Confront', a support group for relatives of murder victims who believe that therapy comes through 'empowerment'. Suspecting the group of revenge killings, Murphy goes undercover and joins them. But it seems that 'Confront' have been doing their own detective work and before Murphy realises, the group is forcing him to face the harrowing events of his own past. Now Murphy must come to terms with the past whilst also bringing the killers' killer to justice. The only problem is he's starting to think that whoever's doing the killing may have a point. After all, revenge is sweet..isn't it?

Murphy was adapted into a TV series starring James Nesbitt, I believe. Not that I remember it.

Thursday 21 October 2021



Synopsis/blurb ....

In the new novel from New York Times - bestselling crime master Ace Atkins, violence comes in many forms...and this time it may be more than Quinn Colson can handle. The Pritchards had never been worth a damn--an evil, greedy family who made their living dealing drugs and committing mayhem. Years ago, Colson's late uncle had put the clan's patriarch in prison, but now he's getting out, with revenge, power, and family business on his mind. To make matters worse, a shady trucking firm with possible ties to the Gulf Coast syndicate has moved into Tibbehah, and they have their own methods of intimidation. With his longtime deputy Lillie Virgil now working up in Memphis, Quinn Colson finds himself having to fall back on some brand-new deputies to help him out, but with Old West-style violence breaking out, and his own wedding on the horizon, this is without doubt Colson's most trying times as sheriff. Cracks are opening up all over the county, and shadowy figures are crawling out through them--and they're all heading directly for him.

My second time around with Ace Atkins and one which I enjoyed a bit more than the previous encounter, The Fallen. It's another series book with Quinn Colson, but - and I don't know if it's typical for the series or not - I felt Colson didn't feature that much to be honest. When he did it was usually to discuss his forthcoming wedding nuptials, and the catering arrangements, guest list and entertainment.

The novel mainly focuses on rival criminal elements and their competing enterprises, mainly the growing and/or sale of drugs, shipping illegals and other stolen items and for one entity running a brothel as well, and for another a legitimate sideline racing cars.

This rivalry saw us spend a lot of time in the company of some petrol heads and their maverick, ex-con uncle; a brothel madam; a biker gang; a bit of time with a black undertaker with a fleet of drug carrying hearses; some Dixie Mafia heavies and a one-armed mate of Quinn's who unwisely has got caught up with a dodgy trucking company and is now informing for another law enforcement agency. 

There's a fair bit of conflict, scheming, posturing, peacocking, tough talking, trash talking, violence, death, dismemberment, hold-ups, and confrontation with shifting alliances, double dealing and one-upmanship. As I like spending more time in the company of criminals (I find them more interesting) than law-abiding types, I had a great time.  

Quinn Colson does get involved to a degree and has interactions with some of the above, but was mainly on the periphery. There is some backstory relating to his uncle, his predecessor as sheriff, who had history with Heath Pritchard, the ex-con. Pritchard, foul-mouthed and positively Neanderthal in attitudes and outlook was probably the most entertaining character in the book.

Overall enjoyable and a solid 4 from 5.

I'll pick up others in the series if I cross paths with them, but I'm not minded to seek them all out.  

Read - (listened to) October, 2021
Published - 2018
Page count - 386 (10 hrs 13 mins)
Source - Audiobooks purchase
Format - Audible

Wednesday 20 October 2021


Synopsis/blurb ….

When aid worker Úrsula returns to Iceland for a new job, she’s drawn into the dangerous worlds of politics, corruption and misogyny … a powerful, relevant, fast-paced standalone thriller.

Burned out and traumatised by her horrifying experiences around the world, aid worker Úrsula has returned to Iceland. Unable to settle, she accepts a high-profile government role in which she hopes to make a difference again.

But on her first day in the post, Úrsula promises to help a mother seeking justice for her daughter, who had been raped by a policeman, and life in high office soon becomes much more harrowing than Úrsula could ever have imagined. A homeless man is stalking her – but is he hounding her, or warning her of some danger? And why has the death of her father in police custody so many years earlier reared its head again?

As Úrsula is drawn into dirty politics, facing increasingly deadly threats, the lives of her stalker, her bodyguard and even a witch-like cleaning lady intertwine. Small betrayals become large ones, and the stakes are raised ever higher…

Betrayal was my first encounter with Icelandic author, Lilja Sigurdardottir. I have previously been stock-piling her work; Snare, Trap and Cage all sit on the pile. After this enjoyable outing, hopefully they won’t be there for too much longer.

It’s an exciting, topical tale which was consumed in just over a day.

Ursula, a married mother and high profile, humanitarian aid worker has returned home for the sake of her family and marriage. She’s accepted a year long role as a Government minister. Her aims are altruistic and possibly naïve – to make her short time in office count and make some key improvements regarding infrastructure and immigration policy. The Prime Minister who appointed her may have a slightly different agenda. 

Pretty much during her first week in office, Ursula gets frustrated, butting heads with the permanent staff in her department. Efforts to look into an alleged rape by a police officer on his underage babysitter are suspiciously stymied. The trappings of government office don’t sit lightly on her shoulders either, though soon a physical threat to her safety from a homeless man, has her re-evaluating and accepting the wisdom of having a car with driver-cum-security guy.

Threats become more tangible …. emails, physical altercations, menacing notes. Family history and wounds are re-opened. Promised policies are in limbo. A cleaner is selling her office waste to a journalist. Someone in her department is briefing against her. The media are turning hostile. And she is rather unwisely drawn into an affair with the same journalist. Events quickly escalate to murder.   

I liked how all the multiple strands connected and got resolved without ever feeling forced or convenient. It was a cracking tale with plenty going on. It has a very apt title – Betrayal – with multiple applications - real and imagined…. office, duty, family, trust, marital vows. I enjoyed the politics and the machinations of high office with the plotting, scheming and duplicity. I think it was entertaining seeing it happening in neither the UK or US.

I think the depiction of the main character was realistic. She’s a good woman trying to do her best and she has her faults and failings. I thought less of her when she strayed, but could empathise with her sense of dislocation from family life. There’s a numbness to her actions, almost like it’s someone else acting and she’s watching on. None of us is God-like and I guess each of us has the capacity to hurt those we love. Hopefully, understanding and forgiveness are in her future. 

Secondary characters, especially her security guy, Gunnar were well developed. I liked his own personal ethos. His devotion to Ursula and his loyalty were exceptional. 

There's a smooth translation from Quentin Bates as well. Another plus. 

Overall - really,really good.

4.5 from 5

Read – 2021
Published – 2020
Page count – 262
Source – purchased copy
Format - Kindle

Tuesday 19 October 2021



Synopsis/blurb ....


A young woman is brutally murdered on a remote mountain road. A young construction worker, Yuichi, is on the run - but is he guilty?

This is the dark heart of Japan; a world of seedy sex hotels and decaying seaside towns; a world of loneliness, violence and desperation.

As the police close in on Yuichi and his new lover, the stories of the victim, the murderer and their families are uncovered. But these men and women are never what they appear to be...

Quite a dark book and one which I enjoyed, despite not really having much empathy for the victim. Don't get me wrong, no one deserves to be murdered, but she was probably my second least favourite person in the book. I found her to be dishonest, manipulative, selfish and very self-centred. I don't think she was capable of being truthful with either friends or family.

Number one hateful character though, was one of the early murder suspects. Oh how I wished it had been him. There's a later confrontation between him and the victim's father that I wished had turned out differently. Arrogance, entitlement, a superiority complex and a stunning lack of self-awareness had me swinging for him. Even his best friend didn't actually like him. 

We spend a lot of time in the company of the eventual murderer and I quite warmed to him (even if he was an oddball) and his girlfriend. I enjoyed their Bonnie and Clyde-like dash for freedom. I was disturbed by all he had endured growing up, with his callous abandonment by his mother. Raised by his grandparents, it was sad to see the effect his hours of notoriety in the public eye had on his grandmother, who herself was being taken advantage off by some unscrupulous grifters while her husband was dying in hospital. His girlfriend had her own sorrows to contend with.  

Other prominent characters were the victim's parents. The destruction and character assassination by the media of their daughter was painful. Public humiliation heaped on top of loss and bereavement I found uncomfortable. The father roused himself from his self-pity to confront the man who had contributed to his daughter's death by treating her abysmally, but was ultimately unable to enact any semblance of revenge. The victim's mother provided confirmation if any was needed that females are the stronger sex. Stoicism and an ability to go on are admirable traits.

I don't think there were any contented characters in the book. Isolation and loneliness predominate. Even the characters in relationships spend a lot of time in their own heads. Money or the lack of it for most of our cast is an issue. 

Not having read too much Japanese crime fiction in the past, I think I was surprised by the proliferation and normality of the 'love' hotel. Is it really so, or does this book present a distorted mirror on this aspect of Japanese society? 

Overall I really liked this one. 

4 from 5
Read - October, 2021
Published - 2010
Page count - 304
Source - purchased copy
Format - paperback  

Monday 18 October 2021



Synopsis/blurb ...

'Do you need my help?'

It was always the first question he asked. They called him when they had nowhere else to turn.

As a boy he was chosen, then taken from the orphanage he called home.

Raised and trained as part of a top-secret programme, he was sent to the worst places in the world to do the things his government denied any knowledge of.

Then he broke with the programme, using everything he'd learned to disappear. He wanted to help the desperate and the deserving.

But now someone is on his tail. Someone who has issues with his past. Someone who knows he was once known simply as Orphan X.

An enjoyable thriller, which started great (two pages) went a bit wonky (next 10) then thankfully got back on track and was consumed quite quickly.

Orphan X or Evan in civilian life helps desperate people for a living while avoiding personal entanglements. Or at least he did before this book. Helping? Yes, that's consistent. Emotional involvement? Well he breaks that rule here.

I quite like the one man Good Samaritan trope and it works well here. We get some background to his training and previous missions and the demise of his mentor and we pick up with his ethos of helping desperate people. Only here someone has his number and he's getting targeted. The history and details are dropped in seamlessly through the present day story.

Lots of conflict, lots of action, a main character with his heart in the right place and the skill set to take it to the bad guys regardless of his own personal safety. Without feeling I was ever reading anything bordering magnificence, I did enjoy this one and there's were ticks in plenty of the boxes - pace, story, character and outcome. An LA setting always works for me as well. 

There are about 7 full length novels in the author's Orphan X series. I'm not averse to reading more in the future. I might have the second in the series, I can't remember.

Overall - an enjoyable read but one I may struggle to remember in a few month's time.

4 from 5 

Read - October, 2021
Published - 2016
Page count - 404
Source - purchased copy
Format - hardback

Sunday 17 October 2021



Synopsis/blurb ...

Cult favorite Quarry, the killer for hire, is back in print with this debut novel and four other early works by author Max Allan Collins. They don't come any harder-boiled than Quarry. After carrying out his assignment in a down-at-heels river town, the gunman finds someone has played him for a sucker. To figure out who, he must solve the murder he committed. This new edition includes a previously unpublished Afterword by the author.

A re-read from Max Allan Collins to assist with a Goodreads challenge and seeing as it was a 4.5 STAR read back in 2016 and I do like a hitman tale, no big hardship. Quarry is the first in the author's now 16 book long series. 

The series opener shows Quarry at work, in tandem with usual partner Boyd. We get some background to Quarry's character. He's an ex-Vietnam veteran and is divorced. The separation from his wife and the aftermath is almost worthy of a book itself. Fair to say they probably don't exchange Christmas cards. Quarry now puts the talents the US army taught him to good use back in the US at the behest of his new employer the Broker.

Boyd surveils the target for a week or two. Quarry turns up. Gets the details from Boyd and carries out the hit. Things go wrong almost immediately. Boyd is killed, Quarry nearly so and his fee is stolen. The Broker orders him out of town, but Quarry decides otherwise. He's already got the arse with the Broker over his previous job. He sticks around to investigate, recover his money and exact some payback. The fun starts.

It's interesting how a skilled author can have you rooting for someone who dispassionately kills people for a living. When you are inside Quarry's head all his actions seem reasonable and measured and perfectly logical. 

I liked how the story unfolded from start to finish. The back story, the other job and the developing friction between Quarry and the Broker, the history with Boyd, the current job and the aftermath featuring small town shenanigans - an ex-Playboy Bunny, sex, a big businessman running a small town, money, reputations, infidelity and family matters. 

A busy book and second time around, just as enjoyable as the first.

4.5 from 5 

Read (re-read) - October, 2021
Published - 1976

Page count - 236

Source - purchased copy

Format - Kindle

Link to my first time around Quarry thoughts.

Friday 15 October 2021


Synopsis/blurb ....


Sharon McCone had come home again: to her warm, troubled family, to San Diego and a convention of private detectives in a posh seaside hotel. For Sharon it was a chance to catch up with old friends. All except for the one who fell four stories from one of the hotel spires.

Now Sharon is determined to find out why her friend, the director of security at the Casa del Rey Hotel, died. To do it she recruits a slouching fellow she affectionately calls "Wolf." Wolf - otherwise known as the Nameless Detective - has uncovered a little mystery of his own at the Casa del Rey. Now the two cases, like the two sleuths, are bonding beautifully - within a knot of kinky sex and multiple murder that will take twice the cunning to unravel, and twice the luck to survive ...

A few years ago I embarked on an ambitious plan to read my way through Bill Pronzini's Nameless mysteries at a rate of one a month. Despite enjoying the first dozen or so and keeping with the programme for more than a year I got waylaid. Double is the 13th in the series and one which is co-written with his wife, though I don't think she was at the time of the book's conception. Marcia Muller is the author of the Sharon McCone PI series and here the two author's two detectives collaborate.

If I'm totally honest I was a bit bored by the book until the second half when things start to move at a slightly quicker pace. McCone and Nameless - though here he is referred to as Wolf for large parts of the book - meet up at a PI convention. A woman flies out of a fourth story window and Nameless witnesses it from a distance. The dead woman is a friend of McCone's who had been intending to talk to her about something. McCone isn't convinced it is suicide and decides to do some digging. In the meantime Nameless is a bit puzzled by the fact that a woman and child he was talking to before the incident have disappeared from the hotel and the management have denied they were ever present at the location. He wants a few answers of his own.

Nameless and McCone both do their thing separately initially and as the book progresses more in cooperation with each other, though still on a mainly comparing notes basis. The investigations - with further incidents including death, danger, zoo animals, an ex-military man with political ambitions, a dead private detective, a sex club, a blackmailer, a kidnapper and a trip to Mexico - eventually merge and answers are provided to our initial events. 

On reflection I think the book ended up being a bit better than I thought it would. The first half was a bit draggy, with initial incident aside not too much happening at all. Mainly scene setting and a bit of character background for both detectives.

The last hundred pages or so were a lot busier and in truth all the plot strands were skilfully connected and by the conclusion every question was answered. There's also a bit of humour with McCone's mother trying to matchmake the two protagonists, despite the essence of their relationship being a sort of father - daughter one. 

Overall 3 from 5

I think reading this one has given me an excuse to get back to the Nameless series and try and finish what I started. (Only maybe 30 to go.) I do have a Marcia Muller - Sharon McCone novel on the pile,
but I'm not minded to dig it out anytime soon.

BooktakerNightshadesQuicksilverCasefileBindlestiffDragonfireScattershotHoodwinkLabyrinthTwospotBlowbackUndercurrentThe Vanished and The Snatch are my previous encounters with Nameless - 12 novels, one long short story and a collection of short stories.

Read - October, 2021
Published - 1984
Page count - 288
Source - purchased copy
Format - paperback