Tuesday, 31 May 2022

APRIL 2022 - FILMS (CINEMA) + THEATRE

 A decent month's viewing with five cinema trips and a couple of visits to the theatre.


The Northman (2022)

A Viking revenge thriller. I really liked it. Violent and bloody. Nicole Kidman, Willem Dafoe and Ethan Hawke feature. That's three plusses for starters.

From Google....

Prince Amleth is on the verge of becoming a man when his father is brutally murdered by his uncle, who kidnaps the boy's mother. Two decades later, Amleth is now a Viking who raids Slavic villages. He soon meets a seeress who reminds him of his vow -- save his mother, kill his uncle, avenge his father.


Morbius (2022)

Another Marvel film which isn't usually my vibe, but I enjoyed this one. Jared Leto is very good. I quite liked the set-up for it, which makes a change.

From Google....

Dangerously ill with a rare blood disorder and determined to save others from the same fate, Dr. Morbius attempts a desperate gamble. While at first it seems to be a radical success, a darkness inside of him is soon unleashed.


The Lost City (2022)

A really fun adventure comedy with Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum, Daniel Radcliffe and Brad Pitt. Played for laughs and it worked.

From Google...

Reclusive author Loretta Sage writes about exotic places in her popular adventure novels that feature a handsome cover model named Alan. While on tour promoting her new book with Alan, Loretta gets kidnapped by an eccentric billionaire who hopes she can lead him to an ancient city's lost treasure from her latest story. Determined to prove he can be a hero in real life and not just on the pages of her books, Alan sets off to rescue her.


Operation Mincemeat (2021)


I enjoyed this one but at the same time felt a bit disappointed. Based on true events, it was obviously an important wartime operation for the Allies. There was a lot of the personal in the film with Colin Firth's character having marital difficulties and him getting attached to one of the ladies on the team, which in turn caused friction with another team member, who happened to be spying on him for a higher up who wasn't convinced about the operation's merits. 

I guess if it had stuck to the mere detail of the plan there wouldn't have been much of a film. 

From Google....

Operation Mincemeat is set in 1943 as the Allies are determined to launch an all-out assault on Fortress Europe. But they face an impossible challenge - to protect a massive invasion force from entrenched German firepower and avert a potential massacre.


Dog (2022)

I'm a sucker for a dog film. I enjoyed this one and Channing Tatum is quite a good comedy actor. I'd watch this one again if it pops up on TV. I know it's only a film, but those service dogs are quite extraordinary. 

From Google....

With a dog named Lulu by his side, Army Ranger Briggs races down the Pacific Coast to make it to a soldier's funeral on time. Along the way, Briggs and Lulu drive each other completely crazy, break a handful of laws, narrowly evade death, and learn to let down their guards to have a fighting chance of finding happiness.


Singin' in the Rain - MK Theatre

Another surprise theatre outing courtesy of some free tickets. Bloody brilliant. The rain sequences were fun. I'm surprised the cast weren't all falling over. A great and unexected night out.

From Wikipedia.....

Singin' in the Rain is a stage musical with story by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, lyrics by Arthur Freed, and music by Nacio Herb Brown. Adapted from the 1952 movie of the same name, the plot closely adheres to the original. Set in Hollywood in the waning days of the silent screen era, it focuses on romantic lead Don Lockwood, his sidekick Cosmo Brown, aspiring actress Kathy Selden, and Lockwood's leading lady Lina Lamont, whose less-than-dulcet vocal tones make her an unlikely candidate for stardom in talking pictures.



Fatal Attraction - Aylesbury Theatre

A really enjoyable theatre outing. Our son bought us tickets as a Christmas present and it was a cracking show. I can recall the film dimly and the phrase 'bunny boiler' is one I've used when discussing people over the years. I'm tempted to watch the film again.

From Fatal Attraction Play website....

Based on the Oscar nominated classic motion picture Fatal Attraction, James Dearden’s intoxicating new stage production ‘Will draw audiences like moths to a flame’ (The Telegraph).

Fatal Attraction, brings the definitive movie thriller to the UK stage. Starring Footballer’s Wives siren Susie Amy, as the iconic Alex Forrest, soap star favourite Oliver Farnworth (Coronation Street) as Dan Gallagher and celebrated TV talent and performer Louise Redknapp (Eternal, Strictly Come Dancing, Cabaret, 9 to 5) as Beth Gallagher.

When happily married New York attorney Dan Gallagher, meets charming editor Alex (Susie Amy) on a night out in the city, they both commit to a night of passion they can’t take back. Dan returns home to his family and tries to forget the mistake he has made, but Alex has different ideas. Dan’s about to discover that love is a dangerous game, and Alex has only one rule; you play fair with her, and she’ll play fair with you.

Rankings....

1. The Lost City

2. The Northman

3. Dog

4. Morbius

5. Operation Mincemeat

Monday, 30 May 2022

MARCH 2022 - 31 DAYS 31 SHORTS!


Here we go again....

.... and thanks to three sites in the main for the early money dose of crime - Shotgun Honey, Pulp Modern and The Flash Fiction Offensive.



1st - John L. Thompson - Slim Jim (Shotgun Honey)

2nd - Patrick WhitehurstWrite On Me, Sam (Shotgun Honey)

3rd - Patrick Whitehurst - The Man with the Moist Lips (Shotgun Honey)

4th - Margot KinbergMike Can Do It (Margot Kinberg)

5th - Patrick Whitehurst Dating Today (Shotgun Honey)

6th - Patrick Whitehurst It Otter Be Illegal (Shotgun Honey)

7th - Patrick Whitehurst Cosplayers Shouldn’t Kill (Shotgun Honey)


8th - Duncan RosFish 'n' Chips (Close To The Bone)


9th - Patrick WhitehurstUranus Jokes (Pulp Modern Flash)

10th - Chris Offutt - Thousand Dollar Coat (Shotgun Honey

11th - David Tromblay - Short Timer (Shotgun Honey)

12th - Preston LangSpray (Shotgun Honey)

13th - Mike Miner - Settling the Tab (Shotgun Honey)

14th - Greg Levin - The Right Reasons (Shotgun Honey)

15th - Curtis IppolitoNo Other Choice (Shotgun Honey)

16th - Donald GlassDown Swingin' (Shotgun Honey)

17th - N. D. ColeyUninvited (Shotgun Honey)

18th - N. D. ColeyOne in Sixty-Four (Shotgun Honey)

19th - Mike McCraryPlay Date (Shotgun Honey)

20th - Wilson KoewingLast Job (Pulp Modern Flash)

21st - Paul BeckhamSharing (Paul Beckham Stories)

22nd - Chrissey HarrisonHead out of the Gutter (Chrissey Harrison)

23rd - Paul BeckhamRoad Trip (Paul Beckham Stories)

24th - Matthew C. FunkVoodoo Love (The Flash Fiction Offensive)

25th - Tom PittsDealer Sets Price (The Flash Fiction Offensive)

26th - Andrew HilbertThe Lollipop Gang (The Flash Fiction Offensive)

27th - Nick BoldockSome Kind Of Monster (The Flash Fiction Offensive)

28th - Tom KoperwasFire Bug (Pulp Modern Flash)

29th - Allan WatsonMother's Ruin (The Flash Fiction Offensive)

30th - Bruce HarrisPothole (The Flash Fiction Offensive)


31st - Robin CantwellThe Rat King (Horror Sleaze Trash)

Previous outings...


AUGUST 2020 - 31 DAYS 31 SHORTS!

NOVEMBER 2020 - 30 DAYS, 30 SHORTS!

FEBRUARY 2021 - 28 DAYS, 28 SHORTS!

JUNE 2021 - 30 DAYS 30 SHORTS!

AUGUST 2021 - 31 DAYS, 31 SHORTS!

JANUARY 2022 - 31 DAYS, 31 SHORTS!







Sunday, 29 May 2022

TOM PICCIRILLI - YOU'D BETTER WATCH OUT (2011)

 


Synopsis/blurb....

After his brutally violent cop father kills his mother in a heinous fashion on Christmas day, a young boy is raised on the streets of Brooklyn to become the deadliest hitman for the Mob. But even while he carves out a life and reputation for himself dispatching enemies of the syndicate, the hitter is planning his revenge against those who helped to make him what he is. From the cruel mob family to his own murderous old man, who sends threats and taunts from the safety of his jail cell. As the time approaches when his father will be free again, a Christmas nightmare of bloody retribution begins to unfold.

Employing the unique, darkly humorous, and powerful noir voice that is his trademark, Piccirilli once again demonstrates why he's become a must-read author for admirers of both crime and horror fiction.

Short, but gripping and violent and tense and really, really good.

A boy becomes a man and all the way through his adoloscence and into adulthood he's preparing for the day his father is released from prison for killing his mother. True to say the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, though our hero does retain the capacity to love.

One of the best novellas I've read from Piccirilli. 

4.5 stars from 5

Read - (listened to) May, 2022
Published - 2011
Page count - 53 (1 hr 52 mins)
Source - Audible purchase
Format - Audible

P. D. VINER - THE CALL (2022)

 


Synopsis/blurb....

‘Ben, I need you. Help me.’

‘PLEASE HELP ME!’

‘It was an accident…but there’s so much blood…’

In a frantic late-night phone call, Ben learns his wife, Mia, has killed a man. And she needs his help.

When Ben arrives at Mia’s hotel room, the scene is horrific – but over the course of the night it will get much worse.

All their secrets will be uncovered, and they will discover how far they’ll go to protect themselves and each other… will they kill for love? Or will they die for it?

One phone call. Twelve hours to save their marriage. And their lives.

Told in real-time half-hour chapters, this is a read-in-one-sitting thriller that fans of T.M. Logan and Harlan Coben will devour. Sit down and strap yourself in for the rollercoaster read of 2022.

Twisted, tense, gripping and a bit of a page turner.

The Call lays bare the fractures in the marriage of Ben and Mia and over the course of an evening we discover all their secrets, all their resentments and sleights and just how much remains of the love they once had for each other. And we see if forgiveness can overcome fury.

But first there's a dead copy in a hotel room that needs attending to.

I really liked this one. The books unfolds with alternate chapters from both parties in the marriage, so as a reader it's almost like being a marriage guidance councellor, though I did find it hard to remain totally impartial. Is it a man thing to side with the husband? I don't know, I did myself more sympathetic to Ben than Mia, though both of them are far from perfect. As the book unfolds, we meet more people who are a lot worse than the couple who before this night have only hurt themselves and each other.

Exciting and really enjoyable.

4 from 5

P. D. Viner's work has been enjoyed before - The Last Winter of Dani Lancing and The Sad Man

Read - May, 2022
Published - 2022
Page count - 294
Source - review copy from book publicist
Format - Kindle

Friday, 27 May 2022

MARC OLDEN - THE HARKER FILE (1976)


Synopsis/blurb....

Chasing a scoop on the CIA, a reporter finds his own name on the hit list.

In Madison, Wisconsin, a dairy farmer drops dead of a heart attack. A few days later, a small-town citizen in Iowa is killed in a three-car pile-up. Few men know the connection between these deaths, and only one is willing to talk to Harker, an investigative reporter with sources on the inside of every agency in Washington. His source at the CIA is named Trotman, and he knows things that men cannot discuss in the light of day. The two dead men were CIA agents, defectors from Communist states living under assumed names. Trotman tells Harker not out of civic duty, but because the reporter will be one of the next to die.

Getting the story of this terrifying conspiracy down in print is Harker's only chance for survival. He must work quickly to stay alive, but that's no problem. Reporters like Harker love deadlines.

Author Marc Olden wrote about forty books in his career, including several popular series including Narc, Black Samurai and Harker Files. Some members on one of my Facebook Book groups have been extolling his virtues, so I thought I'd give him a go. Narc has been read and enjoyed and so I thought I'd try one of his other shorter series as well.

The Harker File is the first in a four book series featuring an investigative reporter. We have a series of suspicious deaths, a conspiracy and Harker, our main man trying to uncover the in and outs of it all, while trying to stay alive. 

CIA types, black ops, the death of a president, a cover up, Cuban shenanigans, Washington insiders, secrets, an all powerful cabel, deaths - multiple, leaked information, highway ambushes, hit squads, politicians, military men, rumours, persistence, missing reports, newspaper types, undercover investigating, career, a failed marriage, jeopardy, pressure, betrayal and a lot more besides. 

I am a fan of a conspiracy thriller and this is a good one. I liked the 70s setting and the story is all too believable. Government types doing what they want to who they want and powerful enough to crush anyone or anything that gets in their way. And we have the one man against the machine, though in this case he does have some allies.

Fast moving with a few different US settings, as the story takes Harker around the country - Washington and Florida for sure and somewhere else for sure, Vegas or Arizona maybe? I forget. The multiple locations and the zipping from here to there to find the next piece in the invetigative jigsaw adds to the tension. I really liked this one. There's probably a slight suspension of disbelief required to accept that in the end, Harker survives to appear in the second book of the series, but hey hoh all fiction needs that reader buy in.


4 from 5

Read - April, 2022
Published - 1976
Page count - 225
Source - Kindle Unlimited
Format - Kindle

COLIN CONWAY - COZY UP TO BLOOD (2020)


Synopsis/blurb...

A man running from his past. A thief with a taste for blood. This is no time for scrapbooking.

“Colin Conway has written the most unusual hero I've come across in a long time. Both touching and sweet with a razor-sharp edge. This is not your grandma's cozy.”
Libby Klein, Author of the Poppy McAllister Mysteries

Welcome to Belfry, Oregon—the home of Evenfall!

Years ago, a series of sparkly vampire movies were made on this north Oregon island.  Every autumn, a festival is held to celebrate the films and let fans reenact their favorite scenes.

Murray Lee has no interest in bloodsuckers, though.  For the past several days, an outlaw motorcycle gang seeking revenge has pursued him. He’s tired, alone, and cranky. Amid a torrential downpour, Murray barely crossed the lone working bridge to Belfry before it washed out.

Now, he’s stranded on the island as his enemy musters its forces and plans an attack.

To make matters worse, someone is biting and robbing the citizens of the island.  The local cops seem to think Murray fits the description and are digging into his background.

But Murray is a man with a secret he must protect. The U.S. government has invested a lot to keep him safe, and his enemies will stop at nothing now that they’ve found him.

Murray Lee is about to be immersed in vampire culture in a way he would never have expected.

Another fun read from Colin Conway's 'Cozy up to' series with the third in the series - Blood - the latest adventure with our witness protection biker, Beauregard Smith having burned through another identity and currently seeking refuge on an island from his former colleagues. His former biker brother's are like a dog with a bone.

Only he's now trapped himself on this island in a storm with the only access bridge closed. Unfortunately he's also in the company of a plethora of assorted wannabee vampires and werewolves celebrating the Evenfall festival. In Conway's world you can substitute Evenfall for Twilight. 

As per previous books, Smith aka Murray Lee manages to get himself on the radar of the local police. Our Witness Protection guy couldn't keep a low profile if his life depended on it. Oh wait.... it does!

Character, story, setting, pace, humour - all present.
Good fun all round and it's one of those books that you get a feeling that the author was chuckling to himself as he was writing it. It's currently one of my favourite series. 

4 stars from 5

Cozy up to Death and Cozy up to Murder have been enjoyed before. Cozy up to Trouble has been enjoyed since I read this one. I just need to read Cozy up to Christmas and I'm all square. 


Read - March, 2022
Published - 2020
Page count - 273
Source - review copy from author
Format - Kindle

Thursday, 26 May 2022

BRIAN ASMAN - NUNCHUCK CITY (2021)


Synopsis/blurb...

You better nun-check yourself before you wreck yourself!

Disgraced ex-ninja Nunchuck “Nick” Nikolopoulis just wants to open a drive-thru fondue restaurant with his best friend Rondell. But when an old enemy kidnaps the mayor, and a former flame arrives in hot pursuit, Nick’s going to have to dust off his fighting skills and face his past. Plus an army of heavily-armed ninjas, a very well-dressed street gang, an Australian sumo wrestler with a gnarly skin condition, giant robots, municipal paperwork, and much, much more! From the rooftops to the sewers, Nick and his ex-girlfriend Kanna Kikuchi are in for the fight of their lives!

Also featuring the backup story “Curse of the Ninja” by Lucas Mangum!

Nunchuck City is a comedy/farce crime/thriller novel written by an author who obviously doesn't take himself or his characters too seriously. Or at the very least, he lets himself have a good time writing. It's my first time trying author Brian Asman's work and I do wonder if his other books are of a similar ilk.

Our tale as such concerns a city takeover by a bunch of bad ninjas as a prelude to more grandiose and expansive plans. Hero, Nick Nikolopoulis just wants to open a restaurant and with his dream now in jeopardy, reluctantly takes up his retired nunchucks and teams up with old flame Kanna to rescue the kidnapped mayor and restore order to Turbo City. 

Battles, fights, decapitations, cheese fondue, ninja death stars, ass kickings, trips through sewers and robotic flights and more ensue.

Personally, I can't fight. I never could. Let alone with weapons of a martial arts persuasion, some of which I've never even heard of (nunchucks excepted). I think even if I could and had awesome skills, I might draw the line at tackling a sumo wrestling giant, particularly one with a bulging colostomy bag in tow. The s*** hits the fan literally.

Action, violence, humour, craziness and a bit of a love story to boot, populated by madcap characters. There's definitely a good vs evil vibe coming off here, but it's all presented in a tongue in cheek fashion. Fun was had. 
  
4 from 5

Read - May, 2022
Published - 2021
Page count - 218
Source - review copy from a respected book publicist
Source - Kindle

Wednesday, 25 May 2022

BELLA OSBORNE - THE GIRLS (2022)


Synopsis/blurb...

Four old friends. Thrown back together after forty years apart. What could possibly go wrong?

In the 1970s, The Girls were best friends sharing a house and good times: Zara the famous diva actor, Val the uptight solicitor, Jackie the wild child and Pauline the quirky introvert. Now they're in their twilight years, and Zara suggests that they live with her to support each other through old age.

Initially, being housemates again is just as much fun as in their heyday. But then Zara reveals the real reason she asked them to move in with her, and suddenly things take a sinister turn.

As the women confront their demons they come under the spotlight of the press, the police and an angry parrot. With their lives spiralling out of control can they save their friendships and each other?

A bit of a change of reading pace with this one badged as general fiction/romance. I don't think I really got any romantic vibes from it (though Jackie one of our characters does seem to be on a permanent manhunt, maybe looking for love, but essentially seeking a provider). There was more than a smidgeon of mystery concerning the motivations of Zara Cliff regarding her girls. Why had she manipulated and reunited them?

I think I probably enjoyed this a bit more than I expected to. We have four main characters. Queen Bee is Zara, a famous actress and celebrity. Her girls are all slightly younger than her, but don't remind her of that! There's Val, a single, retired solicitor; Pauline, a widow and someone very alone and not in a great place mentally; and Jackie, a larger than life care provider.

In the 70s they shared a house in London for a period of time. Life moved on and they all drifted apart and went their separate ways. After an invite to Zara's surprise 80th Birthday Party and a brief reunion, Zara suggests that they all come and live with her instead of seeing out their days on their own. Zara has an ulterior motive which becomes clearer the further into the book we go. 

We get the girl's individual histories and come to understand their characters, their weaknesses and strengths, their secrets and their moral boundaries. We learn of their shared history and as well as reminiscing over their good times together, the jealousies and arguments are revealed, as well as the teeny tiny slightest bit of bitterness that remains between a couple of our cast.

From a very personal POV, I think I find the thought of reconnecting with friends from 40 years ago quite awful. I can't actually think of many things worse. Maybe it's a man thing? Maybe I'm generalising. It was interesting to see how quickly they picked up and re-established the bonds between them all. 

Zara is still the shot caller and alpha female, though at various times individually and collectively the others do stand up to her. It's a very unequal relationship though (most friendships are). It's distorted by money which equates to power. Zara does use this to exert control over the options her friends have, and although there is an benefit for each of them as a result of her actions, it's a stretch to consider her totally benevolent or altruistic. It's more transactional.

Another plus point in quite a humorous story was the dual settings of London and France, and the celebrity name dropping, in particular neighbour Felicity. Zara's chagrin at being pipped by her to a Rear of the Year title many years ago hasn't dimmed with the passage of time.

Before the end of the book we have a run-in or two with the French police, as well as some crossed wires and suspicion between our friends. Things work out for them all in the end.

Overall a fun read interspersed with some sadness as well. A bit of a reflection of life really. 
Enjoyable narration as well from the talented Julia Franklin. 


4 from 5

Read - (listened to) May, 2022
Published - 2022
Page count - 399 (11 hrs 35 mins)
Source - review copy courtesy of ISIS Audio
Format - Audible

Tuesday, 24 May 2022

BILL CRIDER - SHOTGUN SATURDAY NIGHT (1987)

 


Synopsis/blurb...

Sheriff Dan Rhodes knows it's going to be a bad day when Bert Ramsey arrives at the jail with a neatly wrapped arm and lays it on Dan's desk. He has another out in the truck, he tells the sheriff, and "a couple of legs, too, but they don't match up."

To Rhodes's relief, the severed limbs—part of a large cache Bert has discovered while clearing brush—are not evidence of a mass murderer at large in Blacklin County, but something more on a par with the usual emergencies the Texas lawman has to deal with: cows loose in the churchyard, ninety-year-old Mrs. Thurman's periodic attacks of "blindness" (which Rhodes cures by sending out a deputy with fresh light bulbs), and the like. Meanwhile, back at the jail, his attenuated employees are bristling about the new deputy, a highly qualified police officer, but a woman, and the air conditioner has collapsed during the heat wave. Plus his personal life has its own problems; does he or does he not want to marry Ivy Daniel?

Then Bert Ramsey is shot to death, and serious crime takes over. A tattoo on the body discloses that Ramsey was once a member of Los Muertos, a violent motorcycle gang from the city, and current members of the gang turn up in Blacklin County. There are questions: Where did the town handyman get the money to buy two color television sets, two VCRs, and a houseful of new furniture? Not to mention six thousand dollars in cash rolled up in a sock in Bert's dresser drawer. Dan Rhodes doesn't have access to the high-tech detection methods of city police—and probably wouldn't use them if he had. Dan has to talk to people and sift the facts from the lies. If he is careful, he believes, and keeps it up, he'll usually get results. "Keeping it up" involves tangling with Wyneva Greer, Ramsey's former girlfriend now living with a mysterious newcomer to the town, Buster Cullens. Buster becomes the next murder victim—of the same killer? Rhodes isn't sure. He soon tangles with the bikers, sustaining a certain amount of damage in the process.

Dan Rhodes is, in the words of Newgate Callender of The New York Times Book Review, "a quiet man, an honest man and a stubborn man," and it seems that no amount of violence is going to deter him from getting to the bottom of the murders in his relatively peaceful and beautifully evoked Texas county.

Shotgun Saturday Night is the second book in the late Bill Crider's 25 book long Sheriff Dan Rhodes series. I'm a bit late (3 months) getting to recording a few thoughts on the book and inevitably some of the details of who did what to who have faded. I do know I had fun listening to the story though.

Murder, bikers, money stashes, body parts, another murder, run-ins, an investigation and a lot more besides. It's an engaging small town mystery. Some humour, some action, some interesting and recurring characters and the introduction of a new lasting one.

We have a new deputy working for Rhodes, a cause of consternation. The fact that Ruth Grady is a woman hasn't escaped the notice of Hack and Lawton, the despatcher and jailer. I liked that Grady could easily outwit both of them through food and snacks and before too long have them eating out of her hand and acting like Rhodes is the one with the issue. There's also a continuation of Rhodes' romance with Ivy Daniels and life post-widowhood. 

Lots to like without assuming any kind of 'best ever - amazeballs' status.

4 from 5

Other Crider books have been enjoyed in the past. 

Read - (listened to) February, 2022 
Published - 1987
Page count - 160 (4 hrs 41 mins)
Source - Audible purchase
Format - Audible

PS Of interest only to myself. We have a Reverend Funk character. Cracking name. He really ought to be a soul musician but in actual fact is a pastor. Another tick in a box for an Alphabet Soup character challenge over on Goodreads. 

Monday, 23 May 2022

FRANK ZAFIRO - UNDER A RAGING MOON (2006)

 


Synopsis/blurb...

A violent robber is loose in River City. Meet the cops that must take him down.

Stefan Kopriva, a young hotshot. Katie MacLeod, a woman in what is still mostly a man’s world. Karl Winter, about to retire but with one more good bust left in him. And Thomas Chisolm, a former Green Beret who knows how dangerous a man like the Scarface Robber can be.

These are the patrol officers of River City – that mythical thin blue line between society and anarchy. They must stop the robber, all the while juggling divorces, love affairs, internal politics, a hostile media, vengeful gang members and a civilian population that isn’t always understanding or even grateful.

Written by a real cop with real experience, Under a Raging Moon is like a paperback ride-along. Enjoy the ride.

Frank Zafiro's River City series is one I have been meaning to get to for a while. I actually bought this one back in July, 2015. I didn't think it would take me around seven years to get to it though. Zafiro is now upto seven full length novels in the series, as well as associated short stories and three Stefan Kopriva novels.

It's a fast-moving tale of cops and in particular one robber. He's a robber with a voracious drug habit that needs feeding. The frequency and success of his strikes makes the whole of the River City PD look like mugs and that's a situation that can't persist.

Interesting characters, plenty of personal and professional histories and back stories, camaraderie, loyalty, friendship, animosity towards the brass - in particular one inept but ambitious leader, secrets, flings, depression, marital strife, drug addiction and a lot more besides. I was kind of reminded of an episode of Hill Street Blues.

Lots to like and enjoy. Setting, pace, story, humour, characters, conflict and outcome. My kind of book. I just need to get my backside in gear and get to the other six (and connected pieces).

4 from 5                        

Read - May, 2022
Published - 2006
Page count - 232
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle

Sunday, 22 May 2022

DAISY BATEMAN - A DISMAL HARVEST (2022)

 


Synopsis/blurb...

Autumn on the Sonoma Coast. A welcome chill is whipping through the crisp Pacific air, but something else is stirring in this rural California town…

Witty and down-to-earth Claudia Simcoe is sure that the gourmet harvest dinner being held at her artisan marketplace will wipe away any memories of the unpleasantness last summer. Not to mention give her a chance to figure out the bewildering relationship budding with her craft-beer-brewing neighbor, Nathan. But rather than dealing with carefully curated food and cautious flirting, Claudia finds herself thrown into the center of a murder investigation when a secret compartment in her market is tied to the death of a local lawyer.

At least this time she isn’t the prime suspect. Instead, it’s one of Claudia’s marketplace tenants who is wanted by the police: the locally-famed cheesemaker, Julie Muller. Determined to help clear her friend’s name—and to discover the history connecting her market to the murder victim—Claudia is forced to test her mettle as a detective once more. As she starts digging into San Elmo’s long-buried past, she is confronted with Prohibition-era mysteries, shady land deals, and a small town bursting with motives to kill the crooked lawyer. But just as she thinks she’s getting a handle on this investigating thing, another gruesome death brings Claudia dangerously close to the killer.

The second installment in Daisy Bateman’s Marketplace series delivers cozy mystery and charming humor as Claudia works to uncover the truth about the murders, her marketplace, and her feelings for her ruggedly attractive neighbor.

Another new-to-me author in Daisy Bateman and a slightly lighter mystery than those I usually read. We have the murder of an unlikable, dodgy lawyer with our main character, Claudia Simcoe doing a bit of amateur sleuthing to try and get prime suspect and friend, Julie Muller off the hook.

California setting, a backdrop of food, home brewing and a local marketplace, a small town community, a dead lawyer who has seemingly stitched up half the county with some shady dealings and some amateur sleuthing to get to the bottom of things. Interspersed in the investigation we have a tentative romance with a neighbour, some humour (not all of which hit the mark) and some local history regarding agriculture and prohibition time whiskey making. There are also a few references to the case covered in the first book in the series, but nothing to annoy me of make me feel as if I had missed a trick by missing Murder Goes to Market.

Most of Claudia's sleuthing seemed to involve gentle questioning with neighbours, friends and acquaintances while consuming delicious home cooked or home baked foods. We also have a low-speed tractor chase at the climax of the book.

Best book ever? No, not really but I was engaged and enjoyed it for the better part, while never exactly in shock or awe at any of the writing or turn of events. It did exactly what is was supposed to do - entertained and intrigued at the same time as I was curious to discover the identity of the guilty party. 

Overall - 3 stars from 5 

Read - April, 2022
Published - 2022
Page count - 232
Source - review copy from Saichek Publicity
Format - PDF read on laptop

Saturday, 21 May 2022

DAVID PUTNAM - THE SINISTER (2022)


Synopsis/blurb...

Bruno Johnson, shaken to his core, but still a formidable force—unrelenting when it comes to saving a child.

Ex-cop, ex-con Bruno Johnson and his wife Marie hide in plain sight from the law in an upscale L.A. hotel as Bruno heals from a run-in with a brutal outlaw motorcycle gang—and the loss of his son—a son he didn't know he had until it was too late.

Marie, now pregnant with her first child, fears Bruno may never fully recover. She knows that soon they must return to Costa Rica to rejoin their large family of rescued children—kids who owe their lives to Bruno and Marie's intervention.

But when Bruno's friend, FBI Deputy Director, Dan Chulack, pleads with Bruno to help rescue his kidnapped granddaughter, escape plans are put on hold. After exhausting all legitimate investigative avenues, Chulack seeks Bruno's brand of justice. With Marie's reluctant consent and her own special expertise, they plunge into the evil world of those who prey on children.

Meanwhile, Bruno's mother, a woman he has never known, appears asking for forgiveness—and Bruno's assistance—while bringing her own set of complications. Bruno finds his professional and his personal lives colliding in a pursuit that is excruciating and brutal.

The Sinister is the ninth entry in Dave Putnam's Bruno Johnson series and it's one of the few contemporary series I've religiously kept pace with. The main character is an ex-cop outlaw with a heart of gold and in particular a soft spot for neglected children. Along with kindred spirit, wife Marie and the help of his father, they have rescued young, abused and neglect waifs and spirited them south of the border to a better life.

Here we have another case where Bruno, puts his own freedom at risk to help a friend after his grandaughter had been kidnapped and the official investigation has stalled. It's a job tailor made for his skillset with his ability to conduct an investigation unbound by the usual restraints of officialdom.

Matters in the book are somewhat complicated by the reappearance in his life of his birth mother, a woman who has been absent for the vast majority of his life.

There's a lot of tension in the book, as Bruno, recovering from a gunshot and wanted by law enforcement himself, teams up with a feisty female detective to try and run down the kidnappers. I really enjoyed the relationships dynamics between Bruno, Helen Hellinger and an ex-con informant who has been coerced to help them. Bruno has to try and conceal his identity while working with Helen over fears she'll turn him in. As the book develops so the relationship between the pair changes and a level of trust develops. It's useful for both parties, but Helen especially as she later on she has her own uses for Bad-boy Johnson.

I liked how Putnam also manages to drop Bruno's back story into the narrative without actually slowing the pace or feeling like large chunks of previous tales were getting rehashed. It's a real testament to his writing chops that he can strike that perfect balance. With it being a year or so since I read the last one in the series, it was helpful to be reminded of some of the history involved.

The tangled investigation eventually makes some headway. Rules get broken and bent. The bereft FBI man puts his career on the line. Bruno's pregnant wife, Marie contributes. A best friend ex-gangbanger offers support and back-up along with a large canine and Bruno gradually gets to know his absent parent.  

Overall - action aplenty, excitement, loads of heart and soul and a satisfying outcome.  

4.5 from 5

The previous eight in the series have all been enjoyed. 

They are.....

Roll on 2023 and hopefully a 10th book!
    

Read - April, 2022
Published - 2022
Page count - 352
Source - review copy from author
Format - paperback

Friday, 20 May 2022

ANDY KAISER - IN TENTS (2019)

 


Synopsis/blurb...

Dario may not have his life figured out, but at least he has a job, a cell phone, and friends who care about him. That’s enough, until the circus comes to town. Soon after, a bloody attack puts his friend in the hospital and Dario begins to hunt for whoever is responsible.

As he investigates, Dario is pulled toward the dangerous and violent circus, its strange people, and the dark rumors of “Frank’s Show”. But the more he unravels the mystery, the more he realizes he must escape it all… before it kills him.

A bit of a blind punt taken on this one and I'm happy to say it paid off on this occasion.

Strange and weird and funny with splashes of horror and mystery all mashed up and blended together. I've not read Ray Bradbury's work for years, but was reminded of Something Wicked This Way Comes as here we have a battle of good vs evil.

Main character Dario is working at Weeko's Cave, a Native American tourist attraction, role-playing historical scenes for the tourists and struggling to get by. One day Mad Moon's Shining Circus comes to town and Dario is drawn towards it. 

Dottie, his female colleague/friend at the cave job gets attacked outside the circus grounds and ends up in hospital and Dario wants to find the culprit and teach him a lesson. This gives him a reason to revisit often.

He gets close to the owner, various barkers, stall holders and other connected people and strange things happen. The circus has secrets, some of which are shared with Dario. The circus also protects it's own and Dario also finds himself a target. 

Some of the scenes in the book are absolute comedy gold. The ripped top at the cave and the fight with the tourists, for one and in Gold Medal position - the discovery of Dario and the alligator woman naked in the cave by a granny and her family. Photos available on the Internet apparently!

There's some real tension in the book in places. Dario tries to win an Apache pipe for his friend, Weeko at a sideshow. Kaiser really held me rapt as Dario used his skills with a bow to try and overcome some mysterious forces opposing him. There's also some frights in the book, especially when Dario is pursued by malevolents intent on causing him harm. 

Some elements were inexplicable/unexplainable/logic defying but it was one of those stories that the supernatural/other worldly elements added to my enjoyment, as opposed to detracted from it. 

There's a lot in the book about family, friendship, support, looking out for each other and loyalty. Dario endures a few trials and tribulations. He gets sacked and nearly sacked more than once in the book, and suffers some physical loss but things turn out pretty well in the end. 

4 from 5

Read - (listened to) May, 2022
Published - 2019
Page count - 199 (4 hrs 49 mins)
Source - Audible purchase
Format - Audible

Thursday, 19 May 2022

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH LINDA L. RICHARDS


Author Linda L. Richards - Endings and Exit Strategy and a lot more besides, dropped by to answer some questions on her reading and writing habits.... 


I see from your biography on your website you’re an editor, a journalist and an author. Which would you regard as your primary occupation?

Like most careers, mine has not been static. At this stage, I feel very fortunate in having my work somewhat in demand and it seems there is always a deadline looming. That’s a lovely feeling. I guess that was the long answer. The short answer is: author.

Which came first? I’m curious to know if the journalism led to the book writing, which then led to the editing.

I always knew I wanted to write novels, but I was afraid. What if you put a year of your life into something and no one cared?

And I was a journalist where one of the things you learn how to do is write, no matter what.

And I had a sharp eye and a good working knowledge of what is correct in many situations, so editing came up fairly early.

One day I had the courage to write a whole novel. And by then I had the expertise — from journalism and also editing — to be competent about the material.

So tell the story. (Novelist.) Tell it in a way that will be comprehensible. (Editor.) And write the whole thing while also getting the details right. (Journalist.)



*I’m soon to read your latest offering – Exit Strategy.  Can you pitch it to a potential reader in 50 words or less? (*Exit Strategy and its predecessor Endings have both been read/enjoyed now) 

High tech startup meets hit woman for an unexpected ride. Think Elizabeth Holmes. But with killing.

It’s your 13th published work since Mad Money dropped in 2004. Which one are you most proud of?

I’m always the most excited about the book I’ve just finished. I guess that’s natural. You spend a lot of time and emotion immersed in this world you’ve created. And if you don’t think the book you’ve just 
completed is the best thing you’ve done… well, what would that say?

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

I guess Endings. Though they stand alone, Endings precedes this book in series. Also, it becomes available in paperback mid-April 2022.

That said, I would like to tell you, these books are not for everyone. There is a sort of spiritual darkness here. She is struggling towards the light, always, but that’s a subtlety not everyone gets. Also the  narrating character is a hit woman: she kills people for money. Some people find it difficult, because as narrating character you’re seeing the world through her eyes. And yet at least some of what she does is morally reprehensible. Some people find that uncomfortable. I understand that. 

Can you remember what your first published piece was?

My first published pieces were journalism. 

You’ve written three different series, several standalone novels, a novella and some non-fiction. Does a series character and book require a different approach to a standalone novel?

All of the first books in my series began as standalones. That is, I did not conceive a series. I imagined a story and created main characters and before the book was complete, I had conceived of further adventures that were outside of the scope of that single book. I had to keep going to discover what 
happened! 

Similarly, how different is the approach to non-fiction writing to fiction? More research maybe?

For me, non-fiction is so much more work! Or maybe it is just the type of non-fiction I’ve been writing. It’s really difficult because you must – you must – get everything right. 


In fiction, of course, you must get everything right, but sometimes it’s a matter of POV. I’ll give you an example. In Exit Strategy the main character learns something about daytrading. It is explained to her in broad terms. And she’s not a stock market expert, so the shape of the thing is all that is needed. But if you were writing a book about daytrading, you’d have to explain it all ad nauseum and every little bit of what you say will be held up to scrutiny, and rightly so: people will be making decisions based on what they read. That’s quite a lot of responsibility. But, honestly, in a novel, if you don’t feel like explaining something, you can just take a broader view. “He had a gun in his hand.” Not: “He had a Ruger Birdshead-Style Wrangler revolver in his hand.” Nobody even wants to hear that. You can blur the lens a bit with fiction, I guess that’s what I’m saying. With non-fiction, every observation must be razor sharp.

Do you have a typical writing schedule? 


I really don’t have much of a schedule about anything. I don’t know why. It must be how I’m made. I’ll get up at any old time and just start working. Or I’ll go for a hike and work after that. Or play tennis or go to yoga and then work. Hmmmm… when I think about it, most of my life these days involves extremely physical activity and writing. 

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

I don’t. Most of the time, the characters appear so abruptly, I’m just taking them in, sharing what I’m observing about them.

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?

Not at all. I’ll begin with a concept. Not even an idea, really. Just a “what if?” And then I just sit down and kind of watch the movie. That’s the first draft. It gets more difficult after that!

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

The reason that’s a difficult question is that so much of what is “writing” looks like every other thing. Swimming. Taking a bath. Hiking. When my work in progress is where it needs to be in my mind and heart, I’m noodling on it all the time.

That said, each of my books tend to take about a year, including all noodling and writing and editing.

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

In some ways, it’s very different. I didn’t even really know who the ultimate bad guy would be until I wrote the scene. I was so surprised with whodunnit!

Without spoilers, does the main character from Exit Strategy offer some scope for a continuation or sequel?

Yes. I recently signed a deal with Oceanview for two more in the series. I know for sure that book 3 will be called Dead West. I think it is slated for publication in 2023.

And I’m seeing plot arcs for many more books. They just come to me as I work on the current book. It’s really rather lovely.

Are there any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer? 

Yes, sure. I recently showed one of them to my agent. One that I thought was terribly good when I wrote it a decade ago. And she responded by telling me I’m a much better writer now, which I find interesting and heartening. I’m pleased at the idea that I’m getting better all the time. That’s certainly the aim.

What’s the current project in progress?

Dead West.

Moving on….

What are the last five books you’ve read? 


Blacktop Wasteland by SA Cosby

The Turnout by Megan Abbott

Hell and Gone by Sam Wiebe

Atlas of the Heart by Brené Brown

The Four Pivots: Reimagining Justice, Reimagining Ourselves by Dr. Shawn Ginwright

Who do you read and enjoy?

Honestly, the list is so long. I started to say and then stopped myself. So many terrific writers creating today!

Favourite activity when not working or writing?



Currently tennis. Mostly and always hiking and yoga. Often cooking.

TV addict or not? What’s the must watch show in the Richards’ household?

Ted Lasso. 


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



Formation by Beyonce; 4 Mains by Wim Mertens; Blister in the Sun by Violent Femmes

-----------------------------------

RANDOM TRIVIA FUN QUESTIONS 

What’s your favourite vegetable?



They are all wonderful. It’s difficult to have a favorite! Maybe asparagus.

When did you last have a cat fight?


I’ve never been involved in something that might be described in that way. (Though this morning my cat bit my ankle when I didn’t get to his breakfast quickly enough.)

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

Yes. A long, long time ago. That’s all I’ll say.

Do you have any tattoos?

No. Or piercings. Even my ears.

What was your first pet’s name?

Mimi.

What’s the worst meal you have ever eaten?

I haven’t had one. If it’s bad enough to be described as “worst” I just won’t eat it. Life is too short to eat bad food.

Do you have any irrational fears?

Yes.

 --------------

Many thanks to Linda L. Richards for her time.

All of her social media links — and more! — can be found here:

https://linktr.ee/lindalrichards 

I'll give you a couple though...

Websitehttps://lindalrichards.com/wp/ 

Twitter https://twitter.com/lindalrichards

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/lindalrichardsauthor/ 

------------

Check out both of her 'Endings' series books below. Thank me later!

Endings (2021)

How far can a profound personal loss drive someone toward darkness?

What would it take for you to kill someone for money? And if you did, who—or what—would you have become? These are the question one woman faces when she loses everyone she loves and everything she has. When the opportunity arrives to reinvent herself as a killer for hire, she takes it. She's good at it—and if she doesn't do it, someone else will.

Then everything changes when she learns about a serial killer so horrible she vows to find him and kill him until—overcome by self-doubt—she seeks redemption rather than vengeance.

Fans of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Dexter will love Endings

Look for Exit Strategy, the next book in the series, coming May 2022

Exit Strategy (2022)

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.

Fans of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Dexter will love Exit Strategy

Exit Strategy stands on its own and follows Endings in this series.