Wednesday 27 April 2022




Summer has arrived in Inishowen and solicitor Ben O'Keeffe is greatly tempted by a job offer she's received from a law firm in America.

Yet before making any life-changing decisions there is her friend Leah's wedding to attend at the newly restored Greysbridge Hotel, with its private beach and beautiful pier. It's the perfect location, everyone agrees, but the festivities are brutally cut short when a young American, a visitor also staying at the hotel, drowns in full view of the wedding guests.

And when a second death is discovered the same evening, Ben finds herself embroiled in a real country house murder mystery, where all the guests are suspects . . .

Murder at Greysbridge is the fourth in author Andrea Carter's Ben O'Keeffe and my third time around the block with her. Treacherous Strand and The Well of Ice (#2 and #3) have been enjoyed before.

It's another enjoyable read which picks up after a fairly long and slow set-up. To be honest not much happens in the opening quarter of the book. Ben is toying with taking a new job in the US, some months down the line. Molloy her romantic interest from the previous books is working for the Guards down in Cork and she has a similar kind of relationship with a new doctor in town. On/off/casual/uncommitted etc. And her secretary and employee, Leah is getting married.

At the wedding at a remote country house hotel two guests die in two separate incidents  - one by drowning, one in his bed. Accidental? Natural?  Well it's a mystery/crime fiction book so no. Both need investigating.

Family histories, local stories and legends, a small island nearby that isn't particularly open towards visitors, current family tensions, a visiting American (one of the victims), an English librarian-cum-historian (also dead), a failing business, resentments - new and old,  hormonal teenagers, past mistakes and probably least of all - unless you're the bride or groom  - a ruined wedding.

I quite liked it once it got going. It turns into quite a busy book with some hints as to the motivations for the crime(s). There is a lot of tension in the relationship between the hotel owners and their son. A surly gardener adds to the mix. We also have the islanders coming into the mix as wedding guests, albeit a bit odd and a bit separate from the rest of the party. Ben's doctor friend falls under suspicion after she catches him in a lie and just when she's getting a handle on things, old flame Molloy rocks up to take over the case and throw her off-balance.

Best book ever? No, but I did enjoy it. And I didn't really mind the plodding opening. I'm Irish, so I'm always happy to go visit in my reading and the north of the island and the communities offshore aren't anywhere I'm that familiar with.

The investigation plays out satisfactorily. There's no action or violence as such. Both murders are either off page or low key, insofar as we catch up with as efforts are made to rescue and resuscitate our drowning victim. I liked the thread of family history and secrets which formed a big part of the backdrop to the mystery. 

I quite like the main character, Ben. She has a troubled past (don't all main characters?). I like the dynamic between her and Molloy, even if it isn't exactly bombs dropping and rockets firing off, more of a slow burning candle type scenario.

Overall a solid read - 3 from 5

I wouldn't rule out reading more in the series, either the first or fifth or any more the author writes in the future, but I'm not minded to go and round them up. 

Read - April, 2022

Published - 2018

Page count - 289

Source - review copy via Edelweiss - Above the Treeline

Format - Kindle

Tuesday 26 April 2022




Jeff Flanders has a perfectly good life. Until Candace Cain sashays into it, and turns it upside-down. Jeff’s got a good-looking wife; he loves her, and she loves him. He’s got a job, swinging a desk at a semi-shady finance company, signing off on usurious loans to losers; he doesn’t love it and it doesn’t love him, but it’s easy work and it pays the bills. Until a girl called Candy applies for a $1000 loan - with no job, no bank account, no security. 

Nothing but a beautiful face, an awesome body, and all the nerve in the world. He lends her the money himself. That’s a mistake. In return, she takes him to bed. That’s a bigger one. All she wants in the world is someone who’ll keep her in style. All he wants is more Candy....

Candy, first published in 1960, is a noir novel of sexual obsession. An early entry in the Collection of Classic Erotica, LB decided it would be more at home in the Classic Crime Library. And we still get to use the gorgeous Paul Rader cover.

Another enjoyable early Lawrence Block outing. I wonder if I'll ever catch up with his entire back catalogue? Probably not, but it won't be for the want of trying. I think if I was restricted to reading only one author's books for the rest of my life, Block's my man.

Candy is a femme fatale and bad news for Jeff Flanders. As soon as the two cross paths, Flanders' brain heads south to his skiddies and from then on he's pretty much doomed. You just know things aren't going to end well. Following their descent to mutual destruction is great fun though.   

Candy is a handful. Physically, she's nearly everyman's dream. Emotionally, maybe not. She's driven and very single-minded. She knows exactly what she wants from life - luxury and to be kept. She's happy to use her ample attributes to help her get it. And it doesn't matter too much which way she has to swing to get it.

Jeff Flanders never really stood a chance.

Entertaining, funny, and in one particular scene, pretty brutal as madness takes over.

Great characters, great dynamics, an interesting set-up and story, with an outcome that pretty much seemed pre-ordained but was nevertheless executed perfectly.

4 from 5

Lawrence Block has been enjoyed more times than I care to mention. Fortunately I'm probably not even halfway through his tremendous output. The good times will be rolling for a while yet.  

Read - (listened to) January, 2022
Published - 1960
Page count - 190 (3 hrs 16 mins)
Source - Audible purchase
Format - Audible

Monday 25 April 2022



Crammed with twisted thrills, dark secrets, and elusive grasps at redemption, this collection of short crime stories will have you turning pages deep into the night.

In the opening story, we encounter two veterans struggling to resolve a problem that a haunting war crime started. Next, we read about a mixed-martial-arts fighter who makes a split-second decision and risks his soul in the process. This is followed by the tale of an assassin who must fight through a cabal of drug dealing circus clowns to keep her young daughter safe. Further in, we learn of two buddies who prove their friend innocent of homicide, despite being stuck in an 80s themed booze cruise. Later, in a true-crime piece, a rookie U.S. Marshal encounters the depravity of man in a dank basement.

These stories, and numerous others, present a series of characters in impossible situations, raging against the never-ending injustices of life. These people try to carve out a piece of happiness, often with disastrous results. The search for salvation brawls against life's harsh reality and the struggle can be overwhelming, but it makes for great reading.

From Dead Camel...

“Radio the Army and let them know what’s going on. Ask not what your country can do for you, ask who you can shoot in the face for your country.”

A Therapeutic Death was another enjoyable short story collection. I've sampled J. B. Stevens work before in the short giveaway - This Will Not End Well

Here we have over 20 stories, none of them especially long but each with enough depth of character to feel an investment in how things shake out.... war, military service, post-Military life, domestic strife, poor choices, mistakes, infidelity, divorce, untrustworthy friends, the temptation of green, secrets, drug use/abuse, consequences, death. family, violence and sometimes a balancing of the scales.


To Keep a Secret — Appalachian Noir 
A Well-Lit Path — Crime 
The Hostess Stand — Domestic Strife 
The Orange Key — Mixed Martial Arts Noir
The Handprint — Revenge 
Overpower — Bank Robbery as a Career 
The Knowledge — PTSD Noir 
A Reliable Belt — Suicidal Noir
The Knife Angel — British Crime
The Hustle — Prostitution as a Career 
Maybe I Don’t Want to Be Found  by Waldo of “Where’s Waldo”— Comedic Essay on Hunting Humans 
A Red Flash — Police Procedural 
The Thunderbird Motel — Private Investigator Noir
The Lake — Addiction Noir
The Missionary — Jail Escape 
The Exit — Drug Trafficking Noir
The Mask — Fugitive Hunting/Non-Fiction 
Catch — Fugitive Hunting/Non-Fiction 
Dead Camel — War 
The Palm Grove — War
The Bunker — War/Non-Fiction 
The Mortar — War/Non-Fiction 
The Georgia Queen — Crime 

I think there was just one story/essay that didn't really work out for me - the Waldo one. Otherwise, everything else rocked. I'm hard pushed to select a favourite because they were all hitting the spot. Far easier to highlight the one that was slightly less.

Settings, characters - some repeating and straddling more than one story, relationships, dynamics, situations, conflicts and resolutions.

I'll keep an eye out for what he does next. 

4.5 from 5    

Read - January, 2022
Published - 2022
Page count - 134
Source - review copy from author
Format - PDF read on laptop

Sunday 24 April 2022



Hugo Marston’s friend Paul Rogers dies unexpectedly in a locked room at the American Library in Paris. The police conclude that Rogers died of natural causes, but Hugo is certain mischief is afoot. 

As he pokes around the library, Hugo discovers that rumors are swirling around some recently donated letters from American actress Isabelle Severin. The reason: they may indicate that the actress had aided the Resistance in frequent trips to France toward the end of World War II. Even more dramatic is the legend that the Severin collection also contains a dagger, one she used to kill an SS officer in 1944.

Hugo delves deeper into the stacks at the American library and finally realizes that the history of this case isn’t what anyone suspected. But to prove he’s right, Hugo must return to the scene of a decades-old crime. 

The Paris Librarian is Mark Pryor's sixth Hugo Marston mystery and the fifth I've read (1,2,3,4 and 9). I've enjoyed them all to a greater or lesser extent. Hopefully I'll get around to finishing the series at some point, I was usually lucky enough to get copies from the publisher when they dropped. I think they missed me out with #8, but I'm not complaining.

The full series in order is as follows:
5. The Reluctant Matador (2015)
6. The Paris Librarian (2016)
7. The Sorbonne Affair (2017)
8. The Book Artist (2019)

Most of the books have a Paris setting, where Marston works at the US embassy as their head of security. Here we have a cast of familiar characters - best friend Tom, on/off (mostly on) girlfriend Claudia and French detective Camille Lerens.

The mystery concerns the death of an American citizen and a friend of Hugo's at the American Library. Hugo discovers the body (of course) and despite the initial thought of natural causes, it soon becomes apparent that it isn't. Hugo works the case in conjunction with Lerens.

There are a few possible motives at play, a love triangle, or a connection to a reclusive, famous resistance fighter, whose papers and belongings are currently causing a bit of a stir. More deaths occur, as the investigation kind of stalls. We have a promising suspect for a while, but no - not him. On we go. In the end we get answers, after a few trips into the French countryside. 

I enjoyed the read overall. I think I have learned now that while I may pick out the guilty party when reading, or at least try to; the motive and reasoning behind X killing Y are never really guessable. Well not to me at least. I suppose with hindsight the clues and hints are there, but I don't really attach much significance to them when reading.

One of the things I like about Hugo is his love of books, though I think he might be more of a deep pocketed collector than me. Here he is tempted to pay $3k for a signed 1st edition of In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. I think my copy cost me 3 quid. His character also gives a blatant hat-tip to a couple of fellow Seventh Street Publishing writers here, as he reads James W. Ziskin and Terry Shames mysteries. I'm a fan of both their series myself, so you can't argue with his taste in mystery fiction.

3.5 from 5

Read - April, 2022
Published - 2016
Page count - 272
Source - copy from publisher Seventh Street Books
Format - paperback

Saturday 23 April 2022



In 1864, Captain Jeff Savage was tasked to find Carver's Raiders, a ruthless bunch of killers who blasted a bloody path through the Shenandoah Valley. The mission was a failure and Carver escaped with a handful of men.

Two years later John Carver has raised his head once more when he and his gang of killers robbed a bank in Summerton, Texas, and a bloodbath ensued. During the violent exchange, a young woman is taken captive - Savage's wife, Amy.

When Savage discovered her ravaged body, it set a bloody chain of events in motion.

Eight outlaws escaped the battle in Summerton, and now, armed with the names of those eight, Savage was going to finish what he started. He was going to track each man down and kill him...slowly.

The only question was - would Savage live long enough to finish what he'd started?

A really enjoyable revenge Western which crammed a lot into a relatively short read.

Savage, our main character first crosses paths with ruthless outlaw Carver just after the war. Things don't go well for him, unfortunately. A failure to end things then has consequences for him further down the line.

I enjoyed the backdrop of the civil war and the lingering resentment towards Savage, a Texan returned home after fighting for the Union. Things might have been easier for him if he had bought himself a new pair of pants instead of still wearing his Union duds. The book might not have been quite as interesting had that been the case.  

Carver and his raiders rob a bank and take hostages when fleeing. Savage's wife is one of them. She doesn't survive. Savage vows to may them pay.

Plenty of action, plenty of history woven into the narrative, interesting dynamics cropping up throughout the book with Savage working at times with people who don't particularly care for him because of the side he was on in the war. I liked seeing how they got past that animosity and found a level of respect for each other. It was fun also seeing Savage catching up with his prey and watching the scoreboard counting down until it was just the two main adversaries.

I was thoroughly entertained throughout and will have to keep an eye out for further Savage adventures or anything else by author, Jake Henry.

As usual Theo Holland had me hanging on his every word. Boy can he narrate a story.

4 from 5

Read - (listened to) April, 2022
Published - 2016
Page count - 108 (3 hrs 16 mins)
Source - Audible purchase
Format - Audible

Friday 22 April 2022


A bit of 70s comedy crime from Australian author, Tony Kenrick. Australian, but these and most of his other books appear to be set in the US.

I do like a bit of humour in my reading. Not always but often enough to relieve some of the dark side of the genre that I frequently turn to. That said it can sometimes be a bit hit and miss. Humour is very subjective.

About the author,

From IMDB website....

Kenrick was an advertising executive from Sydney, Australia, who later became a suspense/thriller author. He lived in Canada, the US, and Europe. He worked for many years in advertising before becoming a writer. He and his Welsh wife and their two children lived in Weston, Connecticut. His advertising background is clearly evident, and even parodied, in his novel "Two Lucky People," in which the protagonist, Harry, is an advertising agent. He suggests a wacky television ad which consternates his boss, but which also wins over their very wealthy client. After that, the boss treats Harry very nicely. Even readers ignorant of the cut-throat world of advertising have found this early scene in the novel to be hilarious.

Kenrick wrote over a dozen novels between 1971 and 1991.

A few were optioned for film, but regrettably were never made. And a couple of them actually were..... Shanghai Surprise and Nobody's Perfekt (Two For the Price of One)

His full bibliography is...

 The Only Good Body's a Dead One (1971)

 A Tough One to Lose (1972)

 Two For The Price Of One (1974)   

Stealing Lillian aka The Kidnap Kid (1975)

The Seven Day Soldiers (1976)

The Chicago Girl (1976)

Two Lucky People (1978)

The Night-time Guy (1979)

The 81st Site (1980)

Blast (1984)

Faraday's Flowers aka Shanghai Surprise (1985)

China White (1986)

Neon Tough (1988)

Glitterbug (1991)

Apart from these two I have another couple of Kenrick's book on the pile. I hope they prove to be worth the punt.

The Kidnap Kid (1975)

Bunny Calder is the con man to beat all con men. And he's the unwilling recruit of the US Government in a plot to trap a gang of nefarious guerillas out to grab twenty million dollars in ransom money. The bait is Lillian, a hilariously foul-mouthed nine-year-old racing addict ripe for kidnapping. All Bunny has toi do is pretend to be her doting millionaire father. 'Mother' is the last person Bunny wants to meet again - she was the last person to be conned and her ambition in life is to scratch his eyes out!

This mad menagerie, cunningly disguised as the devoted and ludicrously rich Bergstrom family, settles back to await developments...


Two For the Price of One (1974)


But there it was, a Navy destroyer with its five-inch guns pointed straight at the Chase Manhattan Bank.

On board: three hoodlums with a hold over the captain and a demand for a cool $5,000000.

To prove their point, they put an incendiary shell into the bank.

Then Dibley, Swaboda and Byrd arrived. They were nuts looking for compensation from the city for the beat-up old car they wrecked in a pothole. Their plan was similar, but all they wanted was $150. Which spelled disaster for the real crooks.  

Thursday 21 April 2022


Synopsis/blurb ....

What if the one good thing you did in your life doomed you to die?

A hard-nosed real estate baron is dead, and detectives P.T. Marsh and Remy Morgan learn there's a long list of suspects. Mason Falls, Georgia, may be a small town, but Ennis Fultz had filled it with professional rivals, angry neighbors, and a wronged ex-wife. And when Marsh realizes that this potential murder might be the least of his troubles, he begins to see what happens when ordinary people become capable of evil.

As Marsh and Morgan dig into the case, it becomes clear that Fultz's death was not an isolated case of revenge. It may be part of a dark web of crimes connected to an accident that up-ended Marsh's life a couple years earlier--and that now threatens the life of a young child. Marsh veers dangerously off track as his search for clues becomes personal..and brings him to a place where a man's good deeds turn out to be more dangerous than his worst crimes.

The Evil Men Do is the second (of three so far) in John McMahon's P.T. Marsh series. The Good Detective was enjoyed a month or two back and my latest encounter was just as satisfying as the previous one.

Here we have a murder investigation which has more than a few twists and turns before the conclusion. I suppose this one sits in the sub genre of damaged detective, which can be tiresome but maybe because my staple reading isn't the police procedural added a layer of interest to the story for me. 

I like the main character Marsh. Pre-first book he lost his wife and child in an auto-accident which he blamed on his father-in-law. Events subsequent to that have seen a reconciliation with his sole remaining family member and a strong belief that his family were murdered. Here a sub-plot is an attack on his father-in-law who is doing some digging of his own. Maybe there's a touch of coincidence that the same culprit is involved in events here. You know what though, I could buy what author McMahon was selling me and I was happy to go with the flow.

Great murder investigation, nice balance between personal events and the case at the forefront. Interesting dynamics between Marsh and his partner Morgan. While they back and support each other and have a bond, there's still the odd secret between them, which I found realistic. Who shares absolutely everything with a close work partner? I also liked the reconnection between Marsh and his late wife's father. It was refreshing to see them both move past previous misunderstandings.

Fantastic setting, developed characters - both main and supporting. I usually steer clear of books 350 pages plus because my head tells me I could be reading twice as many shorter books. Here my investment in the story and McMahon's ability to keep events ticking along nicely made me forget my usual reservations. I'm looking forward to the third in the series soon - A Good Kill. 

4.5 stars from 5

Read - March, 2022
Published - 2020
Page count - 372
Source - review copy via Saichek Publicity
Format - hardback

Wednesday 20 April 2022




A young man with a questionable past must survive a nightmare of terror and torture in this dark and powerful thriller from one of Canada's most acclaimed contemporary authors.

The Downtown Eastside in Vancouver, Canada, is about as close to urban hell as you can get in the Western Hemisphere. Yet in this cauldron of drugs, shattered dreams, and extreme violence, Tom Bauer and his girlfriend Paulie - both ex-junkies and parents of baby Melody - are trying to make a life for themselves. For years, Tom, an epileptic, was firmly under the thumb of his psychopathic criminal cousin Jeremy, who dragged Tom down into a netherworld of addiction, prostitution, pornography, sadism, and murder. But those days are over, or so Tom believes - until the day that he returns home from work to find two vicious thugs waiting for him and Paulie, and little Mel gone. What happens next will change Tom's life forever and outdo every horror that still dwells in the shadows of his memory.

In this sequel to her critically acclaimed novella Contact Sports, author Eden Robinson returns to the gritty urban landscape of inner-city Vancouver and offers a disturbing view of human lives on a razor's edge. A story that jumps freely backward and forward in time, presented in a brilliant and unconventional tapestry of literary styles, Robinson's second novel is truly a mind-blowing experience that will thrill, move, enthrall, and horrify listeners in equal measure.

One that had its moments but which overall I liked a bit less than I expected to. The grit and grimness of the blurb led me to believe this one was right up my dark alley, but for whatever reason (and I don't think it was the narration that was the problem) it just didn't work for me.

A couple of recovering addicts are manoeuvred and manipulated by an older relative. The end.

Ok, there was a lot more going on than that and the timeline flip flops backwards, forwards, maybe sideways. I got a bit consufed or confused after a while. 

Jeremy is the controlling cousin of Tommy. Tommy loves Paulie. Tommy's mum isn't that great a help to him. Jeremy by turns is either incredibly kind and generous, or a massive douche bag. His drug dealing sees Tommy, Paulie and their infant kidnapped and in real jeopardy. Along the way and prior to or maybe after (can't remember, don't know, don't really care) we have a few encounters with Jeremy's enemies and we end up with a couple of corpses. The climax/ending/outcome I can't actually recall. 

Maybe I'm being harsh and it was a case of wrong book, wrong time and perhaps I would have liked it better if I'd listened to it a week before or a week after. Maybe I'll try it again when I've exhausted all the other books in my Audible library.

Usually a Canadian setting works for me and I like a visit to Vancouver. On this occasion perhaps if the story had been told in a linear fashion and our main character, Tommy hadn't appeared to be quite so passive I would have enjoyed it more.  

2.5 stars from 5

Read - (listened to) January, 2022
Published - 2005
Page count - 298 (7 hrs 33 mins)
Source - Audible purchase
Format - Audible

Tuesday 19 April 2022



Race and civil rights in 1963 Los Angeles provide a powerful backdrop in Gary Phillips’s riveting historical crime novel about an African American forensic photographer seeking justice for a friend—perfect for fans of Walter Mosley, James Ellroy, and George Pelecanos.

LOS ANGELES, 1963: African American Korean War veteran Harry Ingram earns a living as a news photographer and occasional process server: chasing police radio calls and dodging baseball bats. With racial tensions running high on the eve of Martin Luther King’s Freedom Rally, Ingram risks becoming a victim at every crime scene he photographs.

When Ingram hears about a deadly automobile accident on his police scanner, he recognizes the vehicle described as belonging to his good friend and old army buddy, a white jazz trumpeter. The LAPD declares the car crash an accident, but when Ingram develops his photos, he sees signs of foul play. Ingram feels compelled to play detective, even if it means putting his own life on the line. Armed with his wits, his camera, and occasionally his Colt .45, “One-Shot” Harry plunges headfirst into the seamy underbelly of LA society, tangling with racists, leftists, gangsters, zealots, and lovers, all in the hope of finding something resembling justice for a friend.

Master storyteller and crime fiction legend Gary Phillips has filled the pages of One-Shot Harry with fascinating historical cameos, wise-cracks, tenderness, and an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride of a plot with consequences far beyond one dead body.

This one was a rich, satisfying read. On the surface, it's the story of one man's meddling in the suspicious death of a friend. But it's a lot more than that, as it provides a detailed exposé of black life in early 60s LA. That life can be perilous, a lot more so when what you are doing brings you in the crosshairs of rich, powerful white men and their paid heavies.

Harry Ingram is a black veteran, a photographer and a process server. He's also his own man, tough, determined and a little bit reckless. Here he needs to be a bit of all three to dig into the death of a friend. It's been been written off as an accident by the LAPD. Ingram isn't so sure and gets to add investigator to his résumé.

I'm guessing Phillips has done his research and some of the events depicted in the book actually happened. Ditto some of the characters mentioned, though my knowledge of black activists in 60s America (or at even any period in time) is limited and undoubtedly some of the references passed me by.  In the background to the story we have an impending Civil Rights Rally at Wrigley Field which Martin Luther King will be speaking at. The forthcoming rally adds a layer of tension and excitement to the story.

War comrades and friendship transcending racial boundaries, a death - accidental or not, curiosity into what our friend had been upto, some digging, some dodgy photos, a romance, the Nation of Islam, a couple of persistent heavies, confrontation, violence, and before our conclusion a death or two.

I think I enjoyed the book as much for the investigation by Ingram into his friend's death and the peril that placed him in, as I did for the social and historical context provided. It's tough reading about the cop interactions with innocent black citizens and the brazen unjust treatment that is doled out to them. Billy clubs as negotiating tools don't really serve to advance tolerance and understanding in different communities. At all times Ingram is mindful of where he is and the company he is keeping. Racism in the 60s was a lot less covert and more in your face, than perhaps it is today. Maybe I'm naive. Rodney King, George Floyd and countless others might beg to differ.

Entertaining, educational, and despite the near 60 year old setting, just as relevant today. 

4 from 5

The Jook and Monkology as well as Hollis PI - a series of stories featuring (and curated by) Phillips have all been enjoyed a long long time ago. (2014 and earlier)

Read - April, 2022
Published - 2022
Page count - 251
Source - review copy from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Format - Kindle

Sunday 17 April 2022



One October night in the depressed steel town of Lodi, Ohio, two police officers respond to a call about trespassers in the derelict Lodi Steel machine shop. A chase through the crumbling cathedral of steel columns launches a chain of events that will test the officers’ partnership and leave a boy to fend for himself in a decaying Rust Belt neighborhood choked by joblessness, boredom, and addiction.

On the opposite end of town, a young woman steps out of a rust-bucket Grand Marquis into an all-night diner. Instead of luggage, she carries mementos: an ankh tattoo she inked herself and a wallet-sized photograph of a boy who disappeared. She doesn’t realize her ex-boyfriend has hired two brothers to track her down and bring her back, by any means necessary.

The complex female leads of Hungry Town, with its sharp dialogue and poetic sensibility, turn classic noir and cop drama tropes on their heads. These morally complicated characters weave in and out of each other’s lives, sometimes violently, sometimes with surprising compassion.

“A literary page-turner. . . . Part Cormac McCarthy, part Tom Drury and Raymond Chandler, Kapcala has created a voice all his own.” —Brian Castleberry

Hmm..... three plus months since I read this one and I still find myself thinking about it at odd moments. That said, I'll struggle to do it justice here. 

Really, really good. Populated by sympathetic characters that you come to care about, an engrossing and complex tale with seemingly separate story strands that during the course of the book intersect and connect and entwine, under the skill of a very talented author.

Two cops - partners, but three all told in a relationship, one harbouring secrets, a neglected child, bullied at school, ignored by his mother, alone after the tragic death of his brother, a domestic abuse victim making a break for freedom and the ex whose ego and pride won't let her leave. 

Small town setting - urban decay, economic deprivation and a loss of hope and opportunity, job trauma and a career change, poor decision making, lazy policing, an avoidable tragedy, a nearly love triangle with two siblings and the girl with the wrong brother, feckless parenting, grief and guilt, but contrasted with steel and strength.

It's a book where you want to reach into the pages and steer the characters towards happier situations and better relationships. You share in their disappointments and the cruelty that life in the guise of fate, selfishness and deliberate vindictiveness inflicts on them.

4.5 stars from 5

Hungry Town is Jason Kapcala's debut novel, though he has a previously published collection of short stories - North to Lakeville. I'll keep an eye out for whatever he does next. 

Read - December, 2021
Published - 2022
Page count - 298
Source - review copy from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Format - ePUB read on laptop

Thursday 14 April 2022




How do you catch a killer if you can’t identify the victim? A scene of crime officer collects the evidence piece by piece in this gritty British mystery.

SOCO Maya Barton is called to a canal where a heavily decomposed male body has been discovered. A bank card belonging to Trevor Dawlish is found in the cadaver’s pocket, and the name matches that of a missing person.

All seems straightforward—until Trevor’s wife phones the police to say that Trevor has returned home, leaving Maya and the team wondering who the unknown male is.

When it’s revealed that the male was dead before he entered the water, Maya finds herself with a murder on her hands. But when another body is discovered, the case becomes further complicated. The hope is that facial reconstruction of the first victim will help solve the mystery—but it may lead Maya and her team down an even darker path.

A really enjoyable encounter with author Kate Bendelow and Shattered Bones. Shattered Bones is a second in series featuring SOCO (scene of crime officer) Maya Barton. 

It's a busy book. We have a murder mystery initally made all the more difficult because of the trouble identifying the victim. This soon ties into a missing person case that has been slightly on the back burner for the police. Here we have an absent husband, Trevor Dawlish with his bank card on the canal corpse, a distracted wife, an ailing mother, a covetous neighbour and plenty of domestic drama and tension.

There is also a large focus on Maya and some issues from her past, foreshadowing her and her mum. An ex-con, Marcus Naylor - her father - has been released from prison, and Maya and her mother are concerned about this turn of events.

I liked the subtle blend of police investigation merged with a backdrop of personal story. The SOCO team are a close bunch, working and socialising together and they all look out for each other. There is on-going tension throughout the book between Maya and one of the detectives, Jack who is working the same case of the canal murder victim. Jack actually isn't as unlikable as Maya believes, and there's an incident which occurs which cements that belief for me. There's also some much needed humour added to the story with the addition of a new team member Tara (I think) to the unit. Every scene which featured her cracked me up. I think she was my favourtie character in the book. 

There's a closeness between Maya and her mother Dominique. They both carry scars over the events which saw Marcus Naylor imprisoned. These events are hinted at but never actually described. We also spend some time with Marcus and his brother, Anthony as they enjoy his new found freedom together.

Bendelow kept me on my toes here, as I was never quite sure who I needed to be suspicious of, who was innocent and who was clever at deception. The murder victim and the missing person case tie into together. It's a sad tale in many respects of four (probably more) lives ruined by a lack of honesty in regards to matters of the heart. Events at the end, also leave plenty of scope for more trouble further down the line for Maya and her mother, in spite of some longed for romance unfolding. 

I think quite early on I decided to stop trying to second guess events and just go where the author was taking me. Initially I did have some confusion as to the Maya-mother-Dominique-dad-Marcus relationship. Maya refers to her mum both by her first name and as momma. Her father, though they are never on the same page in the book is only ever Marcus. I just found it a bit puzzling in light of how I address my own mum and similarly the terms used by my children towards me, but in the scheme of things it was a minor glitch I soon adjusted to.

I enjoyed the narration by Annabelle Indge. The emotion and passion she injected into the narrative was infectious and I couldn't help but get caught up in events. She really added an extra dimension to the story.

Overall I really enjoyed it and unlike other books where there's a seed planted at the end which kind of sucks you into the next one further down the road, on this occasion I was happy to go with it. I'm definitely interested in reading more from this author, so perhaps the little nugget planted did its job.

4 from 5 

Read - (listened to) April, 2022  
Published - 2021
Page count - 382 (9 hrs 33 mins)
Source - review copy from Isis Audio    
Format - Audible

Wednesday 13 April 2022


Synopsis/blurb ...

"I took the Moor Road back, and it was quite windy. It happened just outside Scaling Dam. A piece of tarpaulin blew off a passing truck and covered my windscreen. After that, things got a bit hazy."

These crime fiction stories take place in Thornaby, Middlesbrough, Stockton and other Teesside locations.

Dark Teesside, a collection of dark short stories brought to you by award winning author Glenn McGoldrick.

I've enjoyed a few of Glenn McGoldrick's short stories over the years.... 
Yellow Feet, so jumped at the chance to read a copy of his collated output. (That said I didn't immediately jump into them on receipt.)

The collection comprised 19 stories in all, including the five I had read previously ....

Breaking Spirits
Dead Flies
Red Marks
Redcar Collector
Spitfire Roundabout
The Wrong House To Burgle
Cod Beck
Just Keep Walking
Nightmare Waiting
Horseshoe Bend
Dark Progression
Leaving The Table
Thornaby Accident
Losing It
Eighteen Months
Roseberry Topping
Watching Crows
Yellow Feet
The Moor Road

Whilst a couple of months on from reading, I would struggle to recall any of these in any great detail, I do know that I enjoyed the collection, though maybe limiting myself to a few a day might have been a better option than crashing through them one after another. 

Good writing with a certain sense of melancholy to the characters and the situations they find themselves in. A lot seem to deal with family problems, be it death, grief, loss, divorce and separation. Some of the situations are everyday in nature as opposed to the extraordinary or exaggerated, as such they are more relatable and personal.

Many of the settings used as a backdrop for the stories, place them firmly in the north east of England with the countryside featuring just as prominently as the urban. It seems like a beautiful part of the world to live in. McGoldrick has an obvious pride in his roots and his people, even if sometimes there is some darkness lurking.

4 from 5

I look forward to reading more from the author in the future and hope that one day he expands his ideas and themes into a longer format.  

Read - December, 2021
Published - 2021
Page count - 226
Source - review copy from author
Format - PDF read on laptop

Tuesday 12 April 2022




“Steady now. Focus.

Look down the barrel. Breathe out. Relax.

When I count to three: Start shooting. One … Two … ”

London Baines has it all.

His ‘real-life’ TV show. All the money he’ll ever need—thanks to his wealthy father, Herbert.

And someone hiding in the wings who’d rather see him as a corpse.

In the beginning, Herbert’s fears for his son’s safety seem like parental overreaction.

But Rafferty witnesses a visceral new threat to the heart of the Baines family and realizes the only chance at keeping London alive is to take him out of view.

Reality TV: the ultimate oxymoron.

And when London disappears from right under Rafferty’s nose, a happy ending seems farther away than ever.

Can Rafferty flip the script, bring London home, and reunite father and son?

Or will the bad actors succeed in canceling London’s run—permanently?

DOWN THE BARREL is the ninth book in the Shamus Award-winning Rafferty P.I. series from author W. Glenn Duncan Jr.

If you’re a fan of Spenser, Reacher, or Elvis Cole, this series is a must-read.

Don’t miss another moment of hardboiled, wisecracking action with Rafferty P.I.

My second time with author, W. Glenn Duncan Jr. after the shorter novella Show Me the Money was enjoyed a month previously. Down the Barrel is the ninth full length novel in the long-running Rafferty PI series. It's a series which Duncan Jr. (3 books) has continued after the death of his father (6 books). 

To be honest it was a book which I struggled with initially. I found it painfully slow for nearly the first half, maybe 40% with very little happening. The set up seemed to go on for ages with little action. After this point, it does kick into a slightly higher gear and things start moving.

Rafferty our main character is tasked with protecting a rich man's son against some anonymous threats, including the previous torching of London Baines' car. We have a frustrating investigation with dead ends, blind alleys and some conflict between Rafferty and his ungrateful charge, London. Herbert, London's father and Rafferty's client, is an ineffectual buffer between the two protagonists.

London has a burgeoning career as a reality TV star and Rafferty's efforts to keep him safe run contrary to Baines' desire to be the centre of attention and foremost in the public's eye. I think another issue I had with the book was the fact that because the guy we were protecting wasn't especially likable it was hard not to wish him harm. Maybe the fact that he was rich, young, handsome and popular - all things I'm not - set me against him from the get go.

There are physical threats towards Baines Jr. and Rafferty and his helpers (Cowboy and Mimi) as the book progresses. Rafferty's investigation stutters and stalls. His new boat, their hideaway and refuge comes under sniper attack and gets torched (I think - I read this a month or two back and some of the details have receded). Rafferty butts heads in a peeing competition with local law enforcement, unhappy over the strife his party has brought to his small town. There's a bit of wisecracking between Rafferty and Cowboy, his back-up guy.

Eventually, we get to the bottom of the threats and while it wasn't an unsatisfying end to the book, it wasn't unimagined. There are a few twists throughout but the guilty party was pretty much in plain sight all the way through.

I think overall I felt a bit underwhelmed by it all and while the second half of the book picks up, it didn't do enough to offset a dull opening. 

3 from 5

Read - February, 2022
Published - 2022
Page count - 328
Source - review copy courtesy of author
Format - Kindle

Monday 11 April 2022




Trying to put her wild past behind her, a young woman struggles to be the perfect wife—and teaches her husband the pleasures of being bad
Andrea Kleinman is getting married, and her life is going to change. It has to, because for Mrs. Benstock to be perfect, she’s going to have to forget all about Miss Kleinman—the wild young girl who rushed straight from Bryn Mawr to the West Village, where easy love and free-flowing liquor sent her on a downward spiral, and life became so bleak that she was left with a choice between death and a return to Buffalo, a return to her parents, a return to normal life.
Now she’s marrying Mark the lawyer, and it appears things will be very normal. But even in Buffalo, bad girls can’t stay perfect forever.

(Author's Amazon intro...)
I can trace the origin of A Week as Andrea Benstock to two distinct sources. The first inspired my attempting the book, while the second inspired its form. Let me consider the second first. In 1949, the Belgian author Georges Simenon published a novel called—well, who knows what he called it, but the English translation bore the title—Four Days in a Lifetime. I must have read it sometime in the late 1950s because what I recall of the experience is that I was in my parents’ house on Starin Avenue at the time. Besides its title, all I remember of the book is its structure. It consisted of four parts, each taking place entirely within a single day of its protagonist’s life. And those four days were all you needed. They gave you the full picture of the man’s existence . . . or, at least, all Simenon felt like giving you. I thought it was brilliant, and the device—if not the plot or characters—stayed in my mind. If Simenon gave me the structure of Andrea Benstock, a woman named Peggy Roth pointed me at the book’s subject matter and at the same time made me believe I was good enough to write it. Peggy was a highly-placed editor at Dell Publishing. My own editor there, Bill Grose, reported to her, and on one occasion in the early 1970s the three of us had lunch together. I’d written a batch of sex fact books for Dell, but at the time I don’t believe Dell had published any of my fiction. I don’t remember much about our lunch except that we all had a lot to drink. The conversation wandered all over the place, and at one point Peggy asked me who my favorite writer was. I replied (and would very likely still reply) that it was John O’Hara.“Oh, you’re a much better writer than he ever was,” Peggy Roth said. Now that could only have been the martinis talking, and I’m sure I knew it at the time and surely know it now. She couldn’t possibly have believed it, and if she did, well, she was wrong. But her words, even if I recognized them as outrageous and alcohol-driven, nevertheless allowed me to believe that I might try to play in that league. I’d never get a Golden Glove or hit for the circuit, but I might be able to sit on the bench. Maybe pitch batting practice, say. Then Peggy asked me about my background, and I said I’d grown up in a middle-class Jewish family in Buffalo, New York. “Then that’s what you should write about,” she said. I don’t think it had ever occurred to me that anyone would want to read a novel with such a setting or that I would ever want to write one. But Peggy Roth, a perceptive and intelligent woman, thought that was what I should write. That didn’t send me rushing to my desk, but it was something to think about.I don’t remember when it all came together, but eventually I found I had a book in mind. Like Simenon’s novel, it would consist of scattered days in a life—not four but seven of them, the titular week in the protagonist’s life. And they’d be strewn over a decade, beginning with her wedding, when she takes her husband’s name and becomes Andrea Benstock. The days chosen wouldn’t necessarily be the days on which major events in her life happened but would rather be representative days. And there’d be no elaborate recapitulation of what had transpired in the months and years between one day and the next; we’d get that information, but only insofar as it would be apt to come to her mind at each present moment. I don’t keep journals, so I can’t say just when I started work on the book or even when I finished it. It took a while. Because of its utterly episodic structure, it was easy to put it aside between sections and turn to something else, something with the promise of immediate income. I was married to my first wife when I began the book, and that marriage ended in the summer of 1973. I moved into a studio apartment on West 58th Street, and that same year Peggy Roth died far too young of pneumonia. When I finished the book, she was one of its two dedicatees; the other was my stepfather, Joe

Another Audible outing with Lawrence Block and one markedly different from his work both before and after. A Week as Andrea Benstock catalogues seven days in the life of Andrea, though each day is separated in time by several years.

We initially meet her on her wedding day. Other days relayed concern infidelity following a visit to an old haunt and a hook up with an old friend, the death of a parent, the conduct of an affair, young children and being a mum, a marital breakdown and a move back to New York from Buffalo, a working life, the suicide of a college friend and in time the celebration of a wedding anniversary after an obvious reconciliation.

I enjoyed it, but then I pretty much enjoy anything Block had turned his hand to. With each day we get not just the detail of what transpires, but a large context of what is going on in Andrea Benstock's life and how she feels about it. 

I found it funny how she can justify her own ongoing affair with a family friend and work colleague of her husband. For her there is no emotional involvement and it's purely a physical transaction for both parties. When later in life (the book and days related cover more than ten years) her husband is obviously conducting an affair of his own, she is angry, hurt and fearful, because she isn't privvy to the emotions of the parties involved. I can ackowledge her pain, but can't get past the double standards she applies. 

The book kind of reminded me of a few episodes of a TV soap - Eastenders maybe. Or more accurately Peyton Place - not that I can recall too much about that one. Or even a documentary. There's a kind of fly on the wall aspect to the intimate detail of a woman steering her way through life, getting older, not necessarily getting wiser, growing up, finding out secrets from her mother about her parent's marriage and discovering through lived experience that life isn't always sunny.   

Interesting, unusual and peculiarly satisfying - I mean who doesn't like peeking behind other people's curtains? 

Overall a really entertaining book even though I don't think I actually liked Andrea Benstock that much.

4.5 stars from 5

Read - (listened to) January, 2022 
Published - 1975
Page count - 304 (9 hrs 30 mins)
Source - Audible purchase
Format - Audible

Saturday 9 April 2022


Six more into the collection....

Matthew Copes - Shaft City (2019) - Amazon purchase

Facebook friend Mick Rose tipped me off to this author, and he hasn't steered me wrong yet.

Discovering you're the offspring of incest isn't easy.

Reeling from a lifetime of bad choices and self-inflicted abuse, hard luck private detective Mack Chase seeks solace in the Arizona desert.

Though it’s not much of an existence, he’s making it work thanks to spotty agency work, a new dog, and generous monthly payments from an anonymous benefactor, but a late night distress call from a childhood flame turned junkie-prostitute heralds bad things on the horizon.

When a little girl disappears from a remote settlement of drifters and misfits known as “Shaft City,” Mack and his dopesick companion are thrust into a particularly personal and ghastly investigation that just so happens to coincide with the return of an unsavory acquaintance with whom they shared a traumatic experience growing up.

It’s a stroll down Memory Lane, until the kidnapping becomes a murder.

The clues point in one shocking direction, but long-simmering vendettas, shameful family secrets and tainted genes may be clouding Mack’s judgement.

SHAFT CITY is perfect for fans of classic noir authors like Dashiel Hammet, Ross MacDonald, Raymond Chandler and James Ellroy.

Walter Marks - Amazing Detective (2017) - Amazon purchase

Another new-to-me author and a 5th in series

“The discovery of a body on a Long Island beach leads a detective into a complex murder investigation with possible ties to drug trafficking…An entertaining mystery with an engaging hero and deftly handled plot twists.”—Kirkus Reviews

Praised by the East Hampton Star as an “amazing detective” for his expertise in crime-solving, Jericho is hard-pressed to live up to his reputation, by two separate cases. One is a homicide, involving a corpse found buried near a hiking trail in Montauk. The other deals with the complex interactions of competing sinister and violent drug cartels. Jericho comes face to face with homicide, gang wars, human trafficking, immigration issues, and racial tensions. Things come to a boiling point in this twisty story, until the life of the amazing detective himself is in serious jeopardy. As in all Jericho novels, the ending is shocking and unexpected.

Bonnar Spring - Disappeared (2022) - Net Galley review copy

And again, another untried author. Disappeared is Bonnar Spring's second novel.

These two sisters are about to be permanently “disappeared”

Julie Welch's sister, Fay Lariviere, disappears from their hotel in Morocco. Although she leaves a note that she'll be back in two days, Fay doesn't return.

Julie's anger shifts to worry—and to fear when she discovers a stalker. Then, an attack meant for Julie kills another woman. Searching Fay's luggage and quizzing the hotel staff, Julie discovers Fay's destination—a remote village in the Saharan desert. Convinced her sister is in danger and propelled by her own jeopardy, Julie rushes to warn Fay.

By the time she reaches the village, Julie finds that Fay has traveled deeper into the desert. With a villager as guide, Julie follows—only to be stranded in the Sahara when the guide abandons her. Julie is eventually reunited with Fay—in a prison cell—and learns the reasons for Fay's secrecy.

Although furious at Fay's deception and weak from her desert ordeal, Julie knows they must work together. The sisters, ensnared in a web of dangerous lies and about to be permanently “disappeared”, pit their wits against soldiers and desert in a fight for their lives.

Linda L. Richards - Exit Strategy (2022) - Net Galley review copy

Ditto, but this is maybe Linda Richards' 12th fiction book, give or take.

A shattered life. A killer for hire. Can she stop? Does she want to?

Her assignments were always to kill someone. That's what a hitman—or hitwoman—is paid to do, and that is what she does. Then comes a surprise assignment—keep someone alive.

She is hired to protect Virginia Martin, the stunning and brilliant chief technology officer of a hot startup with an environmentally important innovation that will change the world. This new gig catches her at a time in her life when she's hanging on by a thread. Despair and hopelessness—now more intense than she'd felt after the tragic loss of her family—led her to abruptly launch this career. But over time, living as a hired killer is decimating her spirit and she keeps thinking of ending her life.

She's confused about the "why" of her new commission, but she addresses it with her usual skill and stealth, determined to keep the young CTO alive against the ever-increasing odds.

Some people have to die as she discharges her responsibility to protect this superstar woman amid the crumbling worlds of high finance and future technical wonders.

The spirit of an assassin—and her nameless dog—permeates this struggle to help a young woman as powerful forces mount against her.

Vern Smith (ed.) - Jacked (2022) - review copy courtesy of Rum Amok Press

Cracking cover and an anthology I'm buzzed about.

Jacked: Crime Stories is the inaugural anthology for our recently launched imprint, Run Amok Crime. The anthology will be edited by author, editor, and Arthur-Ellis-Award-finalist Vern Smith.
With stories by: Paul Alexander, Eric Beetner, Michelle Ann King, Matt Witten, Zephaniah Sole, Andrew Miller, Phil Moscovitch, Jenna Junior, Allison Whittenberg, Shane Leavy, Christine Boyer, Gregory Jeffers, Meredith Craig, Tom McCulloch, Anne Louise Bannon, W.C. Gordon, Joseph S. Pete, Meagan Lucas, J. P. Seewald, Steven James Cordin, Ricky Sprague. 

Blair Denholm - Shot to the Heart (2022) - review ARC from author

Fourth entry in the author's Fighting Detective series. I've enjoyed the first three and more from Denholm

Denholm, Blair - Revolution Day (2021) (January, 2022) 

Denholm, Blair - Trick Shot (2021) (August, 2021)

Denholm, Blair - Shot Clock (2021) (April, 2021)

Denholm, Blair - Kill Shot (2020) (December, 2020) 

Denholm, Blair - Fighting Dirty (2020) (August, 2020)

Denholm, Blair - Sold to the Devil (2020) (May, 2020)

Denholm, Blair - Boyd and Sarge: NYPD Law and Disorder (2019) (January, 2020)

Denholm, Blair - Sold (2017) (February, 2018) 

A missing daughter

A desperate father

A kidnapper with no identity

After a five-year absence from his South London patch, former boxer and Metropolitan Police detective Jack Lisbon flies back from Australia to be reunited with his daughter. Just three days into his holiday, the child is snatched from her father’s side in broad daylight.

The message from the kidnapper is clear – if Jack alerts the police or fails to pay the ransom, the girl dies.

With the clock ticking, Lisbon assembles a ragtag team of amateur fighters and ex-colleagues in a desperate effort to find the kidnappers. Checking off a long list of suspects, they must race across the length and breadth of England and Scotland before it’s too late.

Shot to the Heart is the fourth action-packed book in the Fighting Detective Series from popular crime author Blair Denholm – guaranteed to keep you turning the pages.

If you’re a fan of fast-paced thrillers by American crime legends James Patterson, David Baldacci and Michael Connelly, or British doyens of police procedurals Ian Rankin, Peter James and Val McDermid, the Fighting Detective series will keep you reading into the night.