Thursday 30 June 2022




How far would you go for the person who broke your heart?

When a past love calls for help, John Cutler returns to Seattle. He didn’t want to go, but she offered the one thing he needed more than distance from her—money.

After the former cop arrives in the Emerald City, old feelings resurface, and new lies are told. Soon, Cutler doesn’t know which way is up, and that’s a dangerous place to be.

For influential people are in the orbit of this past love, and they want to silence a secret she keeps. Money and political connections lead to corruption and intimidation. Murder is only a heartbeat away.

As he gets closer to the truth, does death await Cutler?

Cutler’s Return is the first book in a new crime fiction series from Colin Conway, the author of the 509 Crime Stories and the Flip-Flop Detective. If you like fast-paced crime fiction and heroes seeking redemption, then you’ll love this page-turner.

Grab Cutler’s Return today and join the action!

Cutler's Return is the first in a new (well, a year old now) series from speedy wordsmith author, Colin Conway. I read and enjoyed a few months ago.

John Cutler answers a call for help from a former love, someone who was indirectly involved in events which culminated in the ending of Cutler's career as a cop. Cutler got involved with stripper Paige and coincidentally or not his life went down the toilet soon afterwards. A falling out with his partner, an altercation with an IA cop, an allegation of wrong doing, an investigation into his conduct as well as a hair-trigger barely controllable temper and a poor attitude sees Cutler leave the force and the city of Seattle.    

Paige calls him out of the blue. She offers him money to recover a file that has been stolen from her. Cutler against his better judgement returns. Bad move. His former love is spinning him a yarn. Shortly afterwards she is murdered and despite no experience as an investigator, Cutler sticks around to try and find out why.  

I enjoyed the story here, even if at times I didn't actually like the main character, John Cutler. He displays levels of immaturity that don't always make you sympathetic towards him. He's impulsive, lacks control and as a result makes some poor choices, maybe more in his past than the present. He's definitely got some growing up to do and probably by the end of the book he has done some, particularly in re-establishing a relationship with his formerly estranged young daughter. I guess it's more realistic having a main character with flaws as opposed to the Peter Perfect persona you sometimes get with fictional heroes.

We have a murder mystery, an investigation, some conflict and action and an almost dual timeline narrative, with events from Cutler's past revealed. This backstory helps establish some of the characters and connections for the present day story. 

I liked the relationship dynamics in the book. Cutler and Paige, and especially Cutler with Daryl Crites the IA officer who he crosses paths with quite frequently. It's probably fair to say they won't ever become drinking buddies. 

Overall an interesting and enjoyable series opener. 4 from 5

Colin Conway is one of my favourite new discoveries of the past couple of years. I've enjoyed his Cozy books, some of his Strait stories, the co-authored Charlie-316 books (with Frank Zafiro) and now Cutler. I still need to try his 509 series.    

Read - March, 2022
Published - 2021
Page count - 298
Source - review copy from author
Format - Kindle

Tuesday 28 June 2022




The new dark psychological suspense novella by ex police officer and child protection social worker, John Nicholl.

Every aspect of Kathy's life is dominated by her abusive bully boy husband. Now she's pregnant and in fear for her life. Can she ever escape him?

A gripping psychological suspense novella. If you like Rachel Abbott, Angela Marsons, and Robert Bryndza, discover John Nicholl's chilling new thriller today.

One word review - chilling.

Not a pretty book. We get an up close and personal view of domestic abuse and it's horrifying.

Kathy is dominated physically and emotionally by husband Mike, who also happens to be a police officer. Nicholl doesn't really pull any punches regarding the portrayal of their relationship. One thing that hasn't been broken is her spirit and she makes a plan.

It's an uncomfortable listen, but also an important reminder of the plight of many spouses and offspring, usually occurring out of sight. Here we have some hope at the end of the story and thank goodness for that.

Excellent tale, superb narration (Jake Urry), plenty of food for thought. I might have to try something else by this author. 

4 stars from 5 

Read - (listened to) February, 2022
Pulbished - 2017
Page count - 60 (1 hr 50 mins)
Source - Audible purchase
Format - Audible

Monday 27 June 2022



TWENTY YEARS AGO Charlie Deravin's mother went missing near the family beach shack - believed murdered; body never found. His father has lived under a cloud of suspicion ever since.

Now Charlie's back living in the shack at Menlo Beach on disciplinary leave from his job with the police sex-crimes unit, and permanent leave from his marriage. After two decades worrying away at the mystery of his mother's disappearance, he's run out of leads.

Then the skeletal remains of two people are found in the excavation of a new building site - and the past comes crashing in on Charlie.

The Way It Is Now is the new enthralling novel from Garry Disher, one of Australia's most loved and celebrated crime writers.

Slow, thoughtful, melancholy, impressive.

Probably one of the best books I'll read this year and one I shall save for a re-read, because let's face it I've got time (working on the assumption here that I stop acquiring more books and I'm going to live to the ripe old age of 249).

There's a kind of dual-timeline feel as we are concerned with main character, Charlie Deravin present day and events of twenty years ago when Charlie's mum went missing. These events have cast a long shadow over the Deravin family. There's no closure as there's no body. His father was suspected of doing away with his mum. His brother believes the rumourss and resents his dad, Charlie doesn't but there's a lingering tension in the relationship between the two brothers.

Present day, Charlie has issues to deal with. Marital failure, working on his relationship with own daughter, a work suspension, enforced therapy, a new romance - one which may not have been the wisest thing to embark on, his father's health, and the itch that he can't scratch and which just won't leave him alone - answers to his mother's disappearance.

I really enjoyed this one. There's no real urgency to the narrative which suited me fine. I liked the mystery, I liked the tension it had wrought on the family and the affect it had on them individually and collectively. I could sympathise with both brothers and their differing reactions towards their father. With the Deravin parents in the throes of a separation/divorce at the time of the mother's disappearance, the boys would be re-evaluating their relationships with their parents anyway. 

There's also a subtle menace to the community, more past than present with a dominant police element, of which the Deravin's were a part of. Work hard, play hard. There's a lot of testosterone and peacocking and alpha male behaviour. Some of this has dissipated over time, but it still lingers.

The remains of two bodies are found. Things start moving. Answers arrive.

5 from 5

I really like Garry Disher's work, but like a lot of authors. I just don't read him often enough. Reading records tell me I've only read him twice on the past dozen years. WTF.
Two-Way Cut and The Heat. Pretty sure there have been more, probably before I starting keep records in 2010.

Read - January, 2022
Published - 2021
Page count - 416
Source - purchased copy
Format - paperback



The debut of Jon A. Jackson's acclaimed "Fang" Mulheisen mystery series, The Diehard instantly established him as a master of the form. It begins in Indian Village, an exclusive enclave in Mulheisen's crumbling Detroit precinct, where a gorgeous young heiress is shot and stabbed during a break-in and expires on a neighbor's doorstep. It appears at first a simple robbery attempt. Mulheisen gets suspicious when her husband turns out to be the only executives of Fidelity Trust Insurance to escape blame for an embezzlement scandal worth some twenty million dollars. But what is the connection, where is the money, and who is the suntanned stranger who is tracking down the same leads, one step ahead of Mulheisen?

Well another book I read, enjoyed and promptly forgot. Well what do I remember?

Detroit setting, crime, 70s, first in a series, a murder investigation centred around insurance fraud. 

That's it. Nothing else. Character development? Plot? Pacing? Tension? Excitement?  All gone.

I don't remember any boredom with the book, neither do I recall falling off my chair with excitement. Just because I don't remember it, doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it. 

3.5 from 5

The Diehard is the first in a series of ten, featuring Mulheisen and I believe I have the other nine on the TBR pile. When I want to read the second book, The Blind Pig, I think I'm going to dust this one off  and re-read the month before. It seems only fair. 

Cracking cover which seems to suggest an element of humour in the books.

Read - December, 2021
Published - 1977
Page count - 224
Source - purchased copy
Format - paperback

Saturday 25 June 2022



Newcastle, 1978. John is sleeping with Mary. Mary is married to Daniel. Both men work for her father, the Top Man. Daniel is his son-in-law, next in line to take over his little empire. John is muscle. The Top Man orchestrates robberies—banks, pay rolls, anything that will bring in some easy money. When Daniel discovers his wife’s illicit liaison, he wants John dead. The Top Man signs off on it.

But John’s a man you only get one shot at. When Daniel happens to botch that one shot, then everyone involved needs to watch their back. Because John will be coming for them, and he won’t stop until he’s taken revenge on every last one involved in leaving him for dead.

My kind of book..... character, conflict, a criminal gang and a falling out over a woman. 
Deadly consequences for all. 

Harsh, brutal, violent, tense, funny. None of the characters are pretending to be anything other than what they are. Take them or leave them. One, John is worthy of respect, if not exactly likeable. I was rooting for him throughout. Daniel is a coward and a bully. Anything he gets is deserved. There will be casualties along the way. Most of them chose a lifestyle that always offers an opportunity for such a fate.

Not one for the faint-hearted, but definitely my cup of tea.

4.5 from 5

Paul Heatley has been read and enjoyed many times before....... The Vampire, The Motel Whore, Fatboy, The Boy, An Eye For An Eye, The Pitbull, Guillotine, and Blood Line 

He's a busy writer, so there's plenty more for me to look forward to. 

Read - November, 2021
Published - 2020
Page count - 210
Source - review copy from publisher, All Due Respect
Format - paperback

Friday 24 June 2022



In Silverview, John le Carré turns his focus to the world that occupied his writing for the past 60 years - the secret world itself.

Julian Lawndsley has renounced his high-flying job in the City for a simpler life running a bookshop in a small English seaside town. But only a couple of months into his new career, Julian's evening is disrupted by a visitor. Edward, a Polish émigré living in Silverview, the big house on the edge of town, seems to know a lot about Julian's family and is rather too interested in the inner workings of his modest new enterprise.

When a letter turns up at the door of a spy chief in London warning him of a dangerous leak, the investigations lead him to this quiet town by the sea.... 

Silverview is the mesmerising story of an encounter between innocence and experience and between public duty and private morals. In his inimitable voice, John le Carré, the greatest chronicler of our age, seeks to answer the question of what we truly owe to the people we love.

My second time reading John Le Carre's work having read the first Smiley book over a decade ago. Le Carre is one of those authors whose work I hoovered up determined to read it all. Not going very well really, is it? Silverview is his last published work and appeared posthumously after the author's death in 2020.

It's quite a short book and I'm probably going to listen to it again at some point in the hope of understanding it all a bit better.

Spies, retired spies, dying spies, the daughter of spies, a banker turned bookseller, secrets, cultivated friendships, relationships, duplicity, errands, connections, leaks, intelligence concerns, death, grief, love, betrayal, duty, service, disenchantment and a lot more besides. 

I enjoyed it, even if I didn't fully comprehend what it was trying to tell me. Some folks, better acquainted with Le Carre's work than me have opined that there's maybe an unfinished/work-in-progress feel to the book, that perhaps Le Carre wasn't quite done with it. I don't know. 

I was entertained. I liked the writing, the characters, and the story. I enjoy relationship dynamics and how people connect with each other, with what they reveal and what they hide and the subtle ways they manipulate and direct others. Maybe when I've read more of his work, I can properly judge whether it's one of his better books or not. For now, I liked it. 

4 from 5

Read - (listened to) February, 2022
Published - 2021
Page count - 216 (6 hrs 29 mins)
Source - Audible purchase
Format - Audible



Edo, February 1566: when a samurai’s corpse is discovered in the ruins of a burned-out bookshop, master ninja Hiro Hattori and Jesuit Father Mateo must determine whether the shopkeeper and his young apprentice are innocent victims or assassins in disguise. The investigation quickly reveals dangerous ties to Hiro’s past, which threaten not only Edo’s fledgling booksellers’ guild, but the very survival of Hiro’s ninja clan. With an arsonist on the loose, and a murderer stalking the narrow streets, Hiro and Father Mateo must save the guild—and themselves—from a conflagration that could destroy them all. 

Fires of Edo is the eighth book in Susan Spann's Shinobi mystery series. Fair to say, I don't think I've read anything like it previously, at least as far as the setting of 16th century. Japan is concerned. (16th century anywhere for that matter.)

We have two travellers happening upon a fire in a village. After assisting at the scene, they stop to investigate it. This brings them into contact with a figure from one of their pasts. From what I understand, there is an ongoing dispute or feud between two rival sects, which is probably an over-riding series arc.

A few months on I'm struggling to remember too much about the book to be honest, though I can recall some of the feelings it evoked in me. I enjoyed the dramatic change of setting from my usual reading. Historic mysteries don't hold a particular attraction for me as I kind of lack the imagination to want to immerse myself in the past. Susan Spann had me enjoying the book though. I liked seeing this peculiar, alien world with it's different food, customs and rules of behaviour. 

The main characters were good company and the story had enough excitement to have me not counting down the pages until the end. There are a few twists and turns and dramatic incidents before an ending which satisfied me and tied up all the questions presented earlier. Who did what and why.

While I wouldn't put it up there as one of my most enjoyable reads of the year, I am interested in re-visiting the series in the future. That's usually the benchmark of whether I've enjoyed a book or not. Do I want to read more from the author about the same characters? Yes. Which is fortunate because I have a few of the earlier titles on the pile.

Setting - a plus, story - a plus, characters - developed, a plus. Writing - enjoyable.

Overall 3 from 5

(Note to self, try not to leave such a long gap between reading something and trying to put together some intelligent thoughts.)  

Read – February, 2022
Published – 2022
Page count – 230
Source – review copy from Saichek Publicity
Format – PDF read on laptop

Thursday 23 June 2022





"Mark Rogers knows that the stylish, polished picture frame in which we live is riddled with holes, in which worms live."
—James Sallis, author of Drive

Hugo Berenson has spent a lifetime hunting down ex-Nazis and bringing them to justice. Now in his 60s, with a legendary career behind him, he’s gone to ground in Jersey City, living a quiet and anonymous life. Just another old man on a park bench.

When a nine-year-old girl goes missing, and when the authorities barely raise a finger to find her, the panic-stricken mother seeks out Hugo Berenson.
A hunter renowned for tracking his prey.
For never giving up.

Helping Rosa find her child didn’t make sense. I was done. Slow. Old. Only minimally interested in my fellow man.
The thing is, I’d spent a lifetime hunting men to bring them to justice. It was a hunt of retribution. Many years of it.
I’d never hunted someone to save them.

Evil flows – from Dachau to the alleys of Jersey City.
One man will stem the tide.
Gray Hunter.

I'm a big fan of author Mark Rogers' work. My problem is I just haven't read enough of it. Red Thread and the co-authored, The Death Dealer (with Adam Rocke) are my paltry efforts at keeping pace with his output. An invitation to read one of his latest offerings, Gray Hunter, was too good to pass up though.

It's an intriguing book. An elderly retired Nazi hunter, Hugo Berenson joins forces with a concerned Hispanic woman, Maria to search for her missing younger sister. Maria is initially sceptical about Hugo being up to the task. She might be underestimating our sixty-something year old. Diamante is missing and mother Rosa and Maria are at their wit's end.

There's some disturbing elements just bubbling away under the surface. What could someone possibly want with a nine year old girl? Shudder! We cross paths with some desperate sorts, where debts can be settled by trading flesh and blood.

Hoboken, New Jersey, disappearance, kidnap, betrayal, police disinterest, family, prison, gangs, card games - high stakes poker, debts, rough bars in rougher neighbourhoods, suspicion, secrets, trafficking, history, family loss, the Holocaust, Nazis, Mossad, manhunts, revenge and justice.

I was gripped throughout. Rogers skillfully blends Hugo's back story and family history of loss and a life spent tracking down evil, with a current, time pressing urgent investigation to save an innocent victim. Along the way he acquires a surrogate family to go some way towards recompensing him for the loss of his own. Hugo and Maria make a formidable double act throughout. Berenson, also discovers a new sense of purpose and leaves us with a new spring in his step. 

I'm hoping Mark Rogers has more Hugo Berenson stories to tell. Future or past? Deal me in.
Gray Hunter is a troubling tale, but also an uplifting one. 

4.5 from 5 

Read - February, 2022
Published - 2022
Page count - 99
Source - review copy from author
Format - PDF read on laptop

Wednesday 22 June 2022




Jack Albany’s world is turned upside down when he is mistaken for muscle from the mob. The actor is sucked into the world of organized crime as the gangsters he has taken up with plot the kidnapping and ransom of the mayor of New York City for a cool $10,000,000. Jack must find a way out of the gang and secure the safety of his new love, Sally.

About the Author: John Godey is the author of many crime and mystery novels, including Nella, The Snake, The Talisman and the international best seller, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, was released as a film of the same name, starring Denzel Washington and John Travolta

I've had a couple of author John Godey's books on the TBR pile for a good while now - The Taking of Pelham One Two Three and The Three Worlds of Johnny Handsome - without ever actually getting around to cracking the spines on them. I spotted his books available through Kindle Unlimited and thought I'd give his two Jack Albany books a whirl. The premise to this one and Never Put Off Till Tomorrow What You Can Kill Today sounded interesting and the fact that neither of them seemed to have any reviews also attracted me.

It's a light-hearted caper of sorts. Actor Jack Albany is out walking late one night when he is followed. As his pursuer closes in, he turns and is approached by another assailant from a different direction. The two grapple with Albany the kind of meat in a brawl-sandwich. Assailant B stabs Assailant A and insists Jack goes with him. It's a case of mistaken identity as Albany is assumed to be a mob button man brought in to assist in a big job.

Albany is taken to an out of town estate where he has to bluff and blag his way through meeting the big boss, his beautiful art teacher, the boss's nymphomaniac wife and assorted members of the gang, one of whom takes an instant dislike to Jack and fancies settling their differences with violence. His acting skills are truly tested when the real Ace Williams, hitman extraordinaire turns up.

While he is trying to save his life, and avoiding killing any cops or villains, not kidnapping the mayor or succumbing to the wiles of the randy wife, he's also falling for Sally, the art teacher. It could be the start of a beautiful romance if they can extricate themselves from mob danger.

Humorous, but never laugh out loud funny. I did enjoy it without being blown away by it. There's never really any great tension in the book, as Godey has Albany mugging for laughs for the most part.

3 from 5 

Read - June, 2022 

Published - 1966

Page count - 135

Source - Kindle Unlimited

Format - Kindle

Tuesday 21 June 2022




Passion and rage explode in a bizarre double murder. Two homicides a night were not unusual for New York City, but these weren't ordinary killings. Someone had decapitated the victims and switched their heads. Detective Frank Janek's job is to get inside the mind of the lethal genius who committed the heinous act.

I'm not usually one for a twisted killer, grizzly murder book to be honest, preferring to read about different types of crime in my reading. I've got to say though that this one smashed it out of the park. Bloody brilliant and more enjoyable for the fact that it was so unexpectedly excellent.

I probably shouldn't have been surprised because I've read William Bayer before, enjoying his Peregrine novel a year or two ago.

Here Detective Frank Janek is assigned a double murder by Chief of Detectives Hart. Two woman have been found murdered on the same night and their heads have been switched. Janek puts together a team and they work the case. He has the two detectives assigned to the original homicides when they were unconnected cases - Stanger and Howell - and his two trusted friends and confidants, Sal Marchetti and Aaron Rosenthal. The killer has been careful, not sloppy and there's no real physical evidence left on the crime scenes. 

Janek also embarks on an affair with a photographer, Caroline who he met at the funeral of his rabbi, retired cop Al DiMona. Al ate his gun and Janek also feels obligated to his widow Lou. She has questions over what Al had been doing in the days and weeks leading up to his death. 

Janek is struck by a connection between Al, Caroline's dead father who was murdered and C. of D.  Hart. It's a connection that Hart lied to him about. Caroline has an old photograph of the three of them together. A frank conversation with Al's widow and a tearful confession give Janek more to ponder, especially given the fact that Hart has tentatively offered him a promotion. Bribery? What's he covering? What does he have to hide?

I really enjoyed how Janek got his team working together. Profiling the two victims, one a prostitute, one a teacher. Understand the victims, know who the victims are, understand the crime, try and understand the killer. Easier said than done. Incrementally they make progress. Janek having the ability to make intuitive leaps that inspire lines of enquiry unimagined by the other detectives. I don't think he presents as a super sleuth, just someone who has a gift for thinking slightly outside of the box and looking at things from different angles. 

There's a lot of old school detecting. Door knocking, interviewing, eliminating, persistence. A suspect emerges eventually and the same approach applies. Find his past, find people who knew him, watch him, uncover his secrets. It's all painstakingly done but it's not something that the killer is unaware of. 

Tables get turned, tension gets ramped and gears start moving.

I liked the character, the slow burn initially of the case, which morphs into two cases with Janek also convinced of Hart's complicity in his rabbi's demise and also the murder of the other part of the trio - Caroline's father. Janek is determined to bring him down and again has to think outside the box to put Hart and his go-to-guy, Sweeney in the box. I enjoyed the way Janek pulled the strings and had his two main guys, Sal and Aaron following him loyally. 

Top notch crime writing. Not a false step throughout. Never a boring moment. No breakneck pace, but something happening every step of the way to keep me fully engrossed. 

5 from 5

Read - (listened to) June, 2022
Pulbished - 1984
Page count - 322 (9 hrs 5 mins)
Source - Audible purchase
Format - Audible

Monday 20 June 2022




When a Western star is gunned down at a rodeo, Ellery Queen saddles up.

Buck Horne has roped thousands of cattle, slugged his way out of dozens of saloons, and shot plenty of men dead in the street -- but always on the backlot. He is a celluloid cowboy, and his career is nearly kaput. The real box office draw is his daughter, Kit, a brawling beauty who can outshoot any rascal the studio has to offer. Desperate for a comeback, Buck joins Wild Bill Grant's traveling rodeo for a show in New York, hoping to impress Hollywood and land one last movie contract. But he has scarcely mounted his horse when he falls to the dirt. It wasn't age that made him slip -- it was the bullet in his heart.

Watching from the stands are Ellery Queen, debonair sleuth, and his police detective father. They are New Yorkers through and through, but to solve the rodeo killing, the Queens must learn to talk cowboy.

Author Ellery Queen was actually a pen-name for a double act comprised of two cousins, Frederic Dannay and Manfred Bennington Lee. One provided the plot ideas and the other did the writing. Which was which? Not sure and I'm not really interested. The name Ellery Queen has lived on well past the two cousins and mainly because of the famous mystery magazine. I was keen to try one of their books at some point and this one seemed a good place to start, with some cowboys in New York.

We have Ellery Queen the author with a main character of Ellery Queen, an investigator who assists with but actually drives the case run by Inspector Queen, his father. I kind of got the feeling Queen Snr has been promoted above his abilities. He's just a prop for Jr. to show off his abilities as a detective. He's good at shouting at underlings and organising searches, but displays no investigative skills.

We have a murder in plain view of 20,000 people at the opening of a rodeo in New York. Despite searching all of the crowd the weapon has disappeared and we have no murderer. After a period of time while the show is shut and the crime investigated, a second identical murder occurs when the event reopens. Ditto a missing weapon and culprit. 

Queen Jr. does his thing and after about 300 pages we get the answers. And the author(s) speak(s) to the reader ahead of the denouement asking if we have solved things because all the clues are available to us to do so.

Along the way we have ballistics tests, matching pistols, searches, interviews, a romance, a boxer, a manager, a money man, a prizefight, an inheritance, some missing money, and probably a few more things I've forgotten.  

I didn't hate it, though it was a bit slow to get going. I didn't love it either. It's one of those books that you feel no real emotion or connection to any of the participants - victims, family, friends, witnesses or detectives. If you don't particularly care, it's just a puzzle where the author gets to show how clever he is.

Overall 2.5 from 5 

Read - June, 2022

Published - 1933

Page count - 317

Source - Net Galley

Format - Kindle

Saturday 18 June 2022



It is the end of October, the city of Basel is grey and wet. It could be December. It is just after midnight when Police Inspector Peter Hunkeler, on his way home and slightly worse for wear, spots old man Hardy sitting on a bench under a street light. He wants to smoke a cigarette with him, but the usually very loquacious Hardy is silent—his throat a gaping wound. Turns out he was first strangled, then his left earlobe slit, his diamond stud stolen. The media and the police come quickly to the same conclusion: Hardy’s murder was the work of a gang of Albanian drug smugglers. But for Hunkeler that seems too obvious. Hardy’s murder has much in common with the case of Barbara Amsler, a prostitute also found killed, with an ear slit and pearl stud missing. He follows his own intuition and the trail leads him deep into an edgy world of bars, bordellos and strip clubs, but also into the corrupt core of some of Basel’s political and industrial elite. More ominously, he will soon discover the consequences of certain events in recent Swiss history that those in power would prefer to keep far from the public eye.

The Basel Killings is the first in the author's Peter Hunkeler detective series. Silver Pebbles, also available in translation from Bitter Lemon Press followed it earlier this year.

Sad to say, having read it four months ago, it's been pretty much forgotten. That's more a me problem, than a Schneider or book problem. 

What do I remember of it then? 

It's quite pedestrian in pace, but not a boring slow, just a kind of thoughful we'll get there when we get there way. It's a murder investigation. I'm pretty sure I enjoyed it and I'm keen to read the second. I liked the atmosphere of the setting, with the time spend in the bars adjacent to the murder and the speculation among the victim's friends over what happened. Hunkeler pretty much drives the investigation and we have time for some personal detail in addition to the working of the case. His girlfriend/partner has left town with work, but he/she/they aren't sure when or if she will be back and what the future holds for them.

Towards the end, a light is shed on some horrendous historic abuses of authority towards gypsies and Romany people. These actually occurred, though I was unaware of them. The Swiss Government apologised in 2008 for it's treatment of Roma people, and the forced removal of children from their families, a policy which only ended in 1972. 

The book 3.5 from 5. 1 from 5 for the garbled drivel that constitutes a review. 

Read - February, 2022

Published - 2021 in translation (2004 originally)

Page count - 188

Source - Edelweiss - Above the Treeline

Format - Kindle

Friday 17 June 2022




Jason Forsyte had been described as the Beelzebub of Broadway - the Stalin of the Stage - the Voodoo of Vaudeville... though not by a well-wisher (if indeed there were any). When his house on Lighthouse Island, near New York, was blown up with dynamite one evening, Jason went up with it, bequeathing a nice riddle for Ambrose Usher to solve. Ambrose, a fellow of the Innes-Crispin college of academic sleuths, had already met many of the playwrights, actors, and undercover agents who were week-ending on the island. Each one seemed to have some sensitive pint of contact with the late Jason. But which one pressed the plunger?

A book that I could quite happily gone through my life blissfully unaware of its existence, but which was discovered when trying to locate something in the genre of crime and mystery fiction with a character name beginning with 'U.' All in the pursuit of completing Goodreads reading challenge.

Author Jocelyn Davey penned seven Ambrose Usher mysteries, across four decades. This one looked ok without screaming to be read. I don't believe I will be seeking out the other six.

Its a short book thankfully and it takes a long while to get set up. Davey takes about a quarter of the book to introduce Usher and a cast of characters, mainly with theatrical backgrounds to an island located off the New York - Connecticut coastline. On or around page 60, Jason Forsyte mentioned but never seen gets blown up.

Usher digs into it, even though his whole raison d'etre for being on the island is some sort of espionage undertaking for the British. Namely keeping an eye on a couple of previously encountered (earlier book, maybe?) suspicious French types.

I've read worse, but it was a bit dull and pedestrian with a few quirky characters - theatre types, hyperactive adventurous children and a few people with secrets, pasts and possible motives for doing the dastardly deed. One of my main issues was not really knowing the victim. Everyone had an opinion on him and a few disliked him enough to wish him harm, but apart from one revelation which admittedly didn't paint him in a great light, I found it hard to care about his demise. Once that happens, it's just really a case of turning the pages. 

I didn't loathe it and Ambrose Usher is a thoughtful investigator. He doesn't jump to conclusions. A lot of his progress towards the guilty party is comprised of patience and observing people, a lot of the time at parties and in social situations. There's are a few enquiries made back in New York. In the end, the killer reveals himself anyway because of circumstance. 

Highlight of the book - page 208. THE END 

2.5 from 5 

Read - June, 2022

Published - 1960

Page count - 208

Source - purchased copy

Format - Paperback

Thursday 16 June 2022



These Streets Are Not Made of Gold…

Fifteen-year-old Staci McKinney thought that leaving home would solve her problems. At least it would get her away from her disgusting stepfather, Nick. But it’s not long before Nick becomes the least of her worries. It’s not easy to live on the streets. It’s a daily struggle to find food and a place to sleep, especially during a Philadelphia winter. Things get even harder when Staci witnesses two men dumping a body. When they see her, too, she has no choice but to go on the run.

Philadelphia City Councilman Daniel Langdon thought everything would be alright, even after the ‘road rage’ incident that led to a death. After all, nobody knew what happened. Except some kid saw him and his assistant dumping the body. Now he’s going to have to find the girl before she gets the chance to talk to anyone about what she witnessed.

Streets of Gold is a tense, gripping novella which shines a light on domestic abuse and as a consequence in the case of Staci McKinney, teenage homelessness. Staci is tired of her stepfather's inappropriate behaviour and with her mother refusing to listen or act, she runs away. It's a case of frying pan to fire, as a short term crash becomes unsuitable due to the sexual attentions of her host. The streets it is then.

Staci has to deal with the challenges of a Philadephian winter on her own. The last thing she needs is to become hunted after witnessing two men dispose of a body. It's a concerning plight, as the men now hunting her are powerful and have resources at their disposal; with contacts in the police, media and a powerful publicity machine. Staci struggles to take advantage of the limited resources available to the young homeless in Philadelphia because of their pursuit. Paranoia, a lack of trust, suspicion are all naturally exhibited by our young fugitive.

It's quite a tough tale of desperation, danger, isolation, fear and the abuse of power. Margot Kinberg puts some uncomfortable social problems into the reader's orbit, things we don't always want to confront and consider. It's easier to turn away and ignore it. 

On the positive side, she also highlights the vocational work of volunteers, charites and individuals, as well as local authorities, who work tirelessly and often unsung within communities to provide some measure of comfort and support to those down on their luck.

4 from 5

Margot Kinberg's work has been enjoyed before. Past Tense was enjoyed back in 2018. 

Read - April, 2022
Published - 2022
Page count - 126
Source - Kindle Unlimited
Format - Kindle

Wednesday 15 June 2022




The college winter break is over, and Caleb Prentiss faces yet another semester of higher education. Struggling with alcoholism and frustrated by his irrelevant classes, Cal seeks solace in the arms of his scholastic-conscious girlfriend and in somnambulistic conversation with a mystifying college radio DJ.

But Cal's ennui is shattered when he discovers evidence of a murder which occurred in his room over the Christmas recess. Obsessed with unearthing the particulars of this gruesome and haunting event, Cal wanders down the grotesque hallowed halls of a university gone mad.

Run-ins with the two hard-nosed campus security guards, relationship hurdles with both friends and lovers, and enigmatic signals from the Dean's icily eminent wife force Caleb to question his place in the bizarre night classes of higher education.

Even as he gets ever closer to the truth, Caleb is plagued by the supernatural occurrence known as stigmata: his hands bleed in imitation of the wounds of Christ whenever someone close to him dies.

And Cal's hands are bleeding a lot these days.

My third Audible outing with the late Tom Piccirilli in the merry month of May and this one was my only slightly disappointing read. The Night Class was sandwiched either side of two cracking novellas - You'd Better Watch Out and All You Despise. It was a bit of a surprise considering this one won a Bram Stoker Best Novel Award. 

I found the story a bit plodding and less than captivating. I liked the backdrop of the college and the main character, Cal was sympathetic. I enjoyed some of the incidents in the book and the relationship dynamics between Cal and a few of the minor characters in the book, but I did continually wonder while listening, what was the actual point of it all?

I don't think it was the crossover of genres from a crime like feel with an unexplained murder of a student, into horror/supernatural with stigmata that bumped me out of the book either. There's a kind of cult feel to the book, as the college freaks, including the hierarchy try and indoctrinate Cal into joining them. 

Decent writing, decent setting, interesting (for the most part) and developed characters, just not much else for me to get excited about. I've read far far worse in my time, and undoubtedly will do again. And it wasn't one that I ever considered giving up on as my ears never started bleeding. I just didn't vibe it. 

2.5 from 5

Read - (listened to) May, 2022
Published - 2000
Page count - 247 (6 hrs 33 mins)
Source - Audible purchase    
Format - Audible

Tuesday 14 June 2022



Real Life blows. Just ask Raymond Ash. As a student, he and his friend Simon thought their futures would be paved with gold discs, gigs and groupies. Instead he's found himself in his thirties, a nervous new father and an even more nervous new English teacher, facing the fact that responsibility has no Escape key.

The last thing on Ray's troubled mind is a band reunion. For one thing, theirs wasn't exactly an amicable split; but a slightly larger obstacle is that Simon has been dead for three years. So when Ray glimpses him walking through Glasgow Airport, he assumes he's seeing things, until Real Life starts getting weirder and more violent than any computer game ...

My first time reading author Christopher Brookmyre in many years. I read his debut novel way back when, hoovered up some more of his books and then promptly forgot about them. Whilst I enjoyed A Big Boy, I'm probably not going to rush to read anything else by him soon.

Positives.... decent enough story once it gets going. There's kind of a dual timeline element to it as we go back into Ray Ash and Simon Darcourt's shared student days. We discover how much of a tool Simon is even back then, before the faked death and reinvention as a feared terrorist maestro. The narrative does flip forwards and backwards which is something I enjoyed.  

We spend most of the time in the present day as Ray and Simon reconnect. Ray wants to enjoy his family and the new addition, if only the baby will ever stop crying. Simon wants to enhance his Black Spirit reputation with another appalling atrocity this time on home soil. An accident, or possibly fate sets them on a collision course. Detective Angelique De Xavier, the third spoke in the wheel pulls out all the stops to try and foil the Black Spirit's cunning plan. Even if it means working with the initially kidnapped before escaping English teacher.

There's a lot of humour in the story as well. There's a classroom scene which involves Ray trying to engage with his sceptical students and it's one of the funniest few pages I've ever read. That's not a one-off, as Brookmyre frequently uses humour to create a connection for the reader with his characters.

I liked the main character and was keen to see how he got on dealing with situations that took him far out of his comfort zone. There's a loving relationship shared by Ray and his wife and an interesting dynamic between Ray and De Xavier. It contrasts nicely with Simon's character defects.... a superiority complex, a massive ego, an inability to forgive and forget even trivial sleights of long ago. Simon always has to believe he's the smartest person in the room and the centre of the universe. 

The ending was satisfying with just the hint of a question mark about the fate of one of the main characters. The frequent injections of wit kind of disarm any escalation of tension in the tale. Brookmyre opts for laughs as opposed to a kind of anxious doomsday thriller.  

Negatives... maybe it took just a little bit too long to set things in motion and at 500 plus pages it demands a level of commitment that I'm not used to giving. I thought I'd tackle the book in 25 page increments daily. By about page 125, I was upping the ante to 30-35, before polishing off the last 130 in a couple of days. Size isn't everything, as I keep telling my wife. 

Overall I really enjoyed it,

3.5 from 5

Read - June, 2022
Published - 2001
Page count - 512
Source - purchased copy
Format - Paperback 

Monday 13 June 2022




"Funny You Should Ask was written during a month-long stay at a Rodanthe NC motel, on the Outer Banks. A long fishing pier extended into the Atlantic, and every day I fished from it, and every night I dined on what I'd hauled out of the water. I couldn't get anywhere on the book I was supposed to write, but I turned out a batch of short stories. "Funny You Should Ask" was one of them. "Sometimes They Bite" was another.

I sent them to my agent, who inquired of a mutual friend. Had he heard anything of me? Did he know how I was doing?

My friend hadn't, and wondered at the question.

"Well, I've been reading the stories he's been writing," my agent said, "and I get the feeling that maybe he's been alone too long."

I can't argue the point. But I've always liked the story. AHMM ran it some ten months after I wrote it, and Fred Dannay (who never met a title he didn't want to fix) changed this one to "A Pair of Recycled Jeans." Which wasn't terrible, but I'm as obdurate as Fred was, and when I had the chance I changed it back. It's been anthologized a bunch of times, and appears in my collection, "Sometimes They Bite," and my short fiction omnibus, "Enough Rope."


Another short offering from Lawrence Block courtesy of a Kindle Unlimited subscription. I think I'll spend some time scouring what is available from him on the service over the next few months. Why? Well it's Lawrence bloody Block innit. That's why.

This particular story seemed familiar though a little bit elusive. The gist of it only coming back to me a fraction of a second after I'd read it. 99% certain this one was encountered before.

A man wonders where perfectly worn pairs of secondhand jeans are sourced from. They're too good to be thrown away. The store owner buys them in, in bulk but doesn't know his supplier's source. The cost/profit ratio intrigues our man and is a bit of a conundrum because they only sell for 6 bucks. Our curious traveller gets his answer before the end of the tale. Not that it will do him much good.

Not sure I'd want to share headspace with Mr B when he was conjuring up this one.

4 from 5

The story sells for a couple of quid (at time of writing) and while the author won't get rich if you buy it and you won't get poor either, it might be a better investment hoovering up his Enough Rope collection, or having a butcher's at this via Kindle Unlimited. 

Fun was had for a quarter of an hour while reading and at least an hour on and off subsequently, while shaking my head at Lawrence Block's imagination and skill. 

4 from 5

Read - June, 2022
Published - 2013
Page count - 15
Source  - Kindle Unlimited
Format - Kindle

Sunday 12 June 2022




A ruthless crime boss.
A mansion with a chilling secret.
A young man faced with the biggest decision of his life.

When his daughter goes into premature labor, Shelby Alexander leaves his northern hideaway for downstate. No sooner does he drive into town, than things go sour.

His ex-wife, Helen, faces deadly consequences after hard times force her to take desperate measures, setting off a dangerous chain of events.

Racing against time to save those he loves the most and avoid unspeakable tragedy, Shelby faces down an evil crime lord, trained killers, and one of the closest brushes with death yet.

The third book in the popular Shelby Alexander Thriller Series, Serenity Avenged takes readers on a breath-taking ride through a hail of bullets, close calls, and betrayal.

Craig A. Hart's Serenity series comprises eight books in total. Serenity Avenged is the third, following on from Serenity and Serenity Stalked and it's another enjoyable outing in the series.

Main character, Shelby Alexander travels to be close to his daughter, Leslie who is about to give birth to his first grandchild. It's an event he's looking forward to, less so being back in touch with ex-wife, Helen.

Helen is in the brown stuff. She's got a bit of a gambling problem and has borrowed money from a gangster, Darkmore which she is unable to pay back. Darkmore's nephew Jimmy has been tasked with collecting. Darkmore wants his money or a pound of flesh.

Helen is secretive about her problems (most gamblers are) and only after Shelby accidentally crosses paths with Jimmy, does the truth come out. Shelby, along with best friend, recently retired cop Mack take on Darkmore and his cohorts.

I quite liked the relationships in the book, especially how Shelby and Helen got past a difficult and acrimonius break-up. They both care for their daughter and choose to focus on the positive aspects of their shared history instead of the negatives. Young thug, Jimmy's relationship with his mobster uncle is also conflicted, especially as Darkmore had his father killed because he disappointed him. The more Jimmy finds out about his uncle, the less he fancies the world of crime.

A few of the events were a little bit sketched and a stretch for believability as opposed to portrayed realistically. Helen's issues with gambling aren't really explored in any depth other than she owes money. There's no real contrition on her part or examination of the evils of addiction and how she is going to address them. Similarly, Darkmore's torture chamber and capacity for violence was a little bit over the top. I'm fairly sure we could have still viewed him as ruthless and single-minded with a cruel streak without the butchery skills he delighted in displaying.

Other than those slight gripes I really liked this one. Story, conflict, characters, relationship dynamics, action, violent confrontation, humour, pace and outcome all plusses.

3.5 from 5

I'll defintely keep reading (listening) to this series. Hart has an engaging writing style which keeps me invested in what happens next. Theo Holland narrating is the cherry on the cake.
Read - (listened to) March, 2022
Published - 2017
Page count - 192 (4 hrs 2 mins)
Source - Audible purchase
Format - Audible

Saturday 11 June 2022



“Scenarios” was written for The Dark End of the Street, an anthology that explores the interface between crime and literary fiction. My friends S. J. Rozan and Jonathan Santlofer teamed up to edit the volume, and I was invited to participate, along with such writers as Laura Lippman, Stephen L. Carter, Madison Smartt Bell, Lee Child, Amy Hempel, Jonathan Lethem, Joyce Carol Oates, and Edmund White. Someone suggested "Scenarios" might be categorized as Post-Modern Noir. Since that phrase pairs two terms, each of which means different things to different people, I have to say I'm fine with it. My story is dark and erotic and violent—or is it?

Another short read in the merry month of May from legendary author Lawrence Block.

The story concerns a man with a knife in his pocket cruising bars for the perfect woman. Block has  a bit of fun with the reader offering possible directions events can take...... he uses the knife, maybe he doesn't, maybe the hard look from a female bartender seals her fate, maybe he gets slipped a mickey and his potential victim uses it on him when he comes to - all tied up, maybe he chickens out and has an encounter and the knife stays in his pocket until next time.

Interesting, fun, and another one of Block's many works, albeit a minor one scratched off the list.
A good time was had for 15 minutes or so. 

4 from 5

Read - May, 2022
Published - 2011
Page count - 17
Source - Kindle Unlimited
Format - Kindle

Friday 10 June 2022




In tiny Blacklin County, Texas, a curse is nothing more than a four-letter word hollered in a barroom or muttered in the heat. So Sheriff Dan Rhodes is more curious than concerned when he dutifully responds to a complaint of witchcraft.

When Dr. Samuel Martin, the local dentist - and unpopular landlord - claims he's been hexed by a tenant, Rhodes does his best to smooth things out between the distressed D.D.S. and the would-be witch. But in two shakes of a black cat's tail, the good doctor disappears...and his wife turns up bludgeoned to death.

For Rhodes, it means there's a bad moon rising over Blacklin County. And now he's got to do the voodoo he does best - asking pointed questions and extracting the painful truth from some tight-lipped suspects who also bite...

Cursed to Death is the third in Bill Crider's Sheriff Dan Rhodes series, after Too Late to Die and Shotgun Saturday Night. It was the first one I read (back in February) and I liked it. Because I read a lot and I'm getting old and my memory ain't what it once was and four months or so have passed since I lsitened to it, the details are getting a bit sketchy. I do remember I enjoyed it.

Decent characters - Dan Rhodes himself and the support cast of Deputy Ruth Grady and the jailhouse double act of Hack and Lawton. Likable - all of them - with some banter and mickey taking and pushing of buttons, usually with Rhodes as the punchline in the joke. Rhodes, as a Sheriff and in all the books I've read so far, a solver of murders is honest and diligent and very old school. Ask questions, get answers, then ask some more. He's not trigger happy and he isn't Superman when it comes to physicality, often coming off second best in the inevitable brawl he gets sucked into - usually a reluctant, uncooperative witness who doesn't fancy answering Rhodes' questions. He doesn't lack courage.

A small town Texan setting with an unusually high death rate! 

Plot - a missing person - a dentist, then a murder with the victim - the wife of the aforementioned missing person, and a few quirks in the tale with some eccentricities - events and character traits - passing off as normal in this rural Texan town. Rhodes does the investigating.

Pace - not laboured, but not 100 mph either. It's kind of appropriate for the story, with the odd diversion for a bit of backstory on Rhodes' history or a meal with the girlfriend, Ivy. The usual stuff that gives a bit of flesh to a book without detracting from the story being told.

Outcome - satisfying. Rhodes get his man/woman in the end and they all live happily ever after until book four in the series when we get to go around again.

I have seen a review which critices the series for being a bit formulaic which I can understand. I actually see that as a positive. I like comfort reading on occasions. There's a familiarity to the books with known characters behaving normally and predictably with the odd twist thrown in. My expectations ie entertainment/enjoyment/satisfaction are met. 

A solid, if unspectacular - 3.5 from 5    

Read - (listened to) February, 2022
Published - 1988
Page count - 162 (4 hrs 43 mins)
Source - Audible purchase
Format - Audible

Thursday 9 June 2022




Cal Baker is a lifelong rocker who had a number one hit in 1979. Since then, he's managed to barely cling to a career by chasing every musical trend that looked promising. Along the way, he was married and divorced a dozen times. Now, he's sixty-two and his thirteenth wife informs him that she wants a divorce, threatening to make it a baker's dozen of divorces. On top of that, the timing couldn't be worse, as he has a new record coming out soon.

This news sends Cal on a quest to discover why this keeps happening to him. He reaches out to all of his ex-wives, searching for the answer that will help him save his marriage, so he won't have to get... A Baker's Divorce.

A Baker's Divorce is Frank Scalise's latest non-mystery-non-crime offering. Mr Scalise is probably better known as Frank Zafiro, author of 30 odd crime fiction novels, published both singly and collaboratively with the likes of Colin Conway, Eric Beetner and Lawrence Kelter, to name drop a few.

ABD concerns Cal Baker, an aging musician whose 13th wife has just imparted the bombshell news that she wants a divorce. Deja-vous really, as Cal has been down this path a time or two before. He's stunned, but probably shouldn't be.

The novel, which is very funny in places, has Cal seeking answers to the why his life and loves keep going sideways. It's interesting in seeing the portrayal of a character, so oblivious to his own shortcomings, failings and faults. On the surface Cal is the kind of guy you ought to hate. He's vain, self-centred, unaware of the needs of others in any kind of relationship with him, immune to criticism, as well as having a short temper and a tendency to overindulge with alcohol. He's a proper man-child. Not so much that he can't learn from his mistakes; it's more a - 'what mistake?' attitude, but he's really, really likable. I don't know how Scalise had him not coming off as a total douchebag, but he pulled it off. 

With wakeup call #13 on the horizon, Cal slowly starts listening instead of the just 'in one ear - out the other' kind of hearing he’s mastered over 40 plus years. A head can be extracted from an ass. Lessons can be learned. Bridges can be built, fences mended etc etc.

We re-visit all the old wives - the surviving ones at least, juggling them with interviews for the new album. We see Cal from the perspective of his wives, his manager, one of his semi-estranged children (the others are more permanently out of his life), and people that report on the industry. 

Musically, he's always been a step or two behind the trends, always chasing instead of blazing a trail. The author has fun at the expense of this has-been/almost never-was. He’s a figure of fun for most of the hipster DJs and journos that he encounters. There’s a sadness to it though in the dismissal of his talent and success (or relative lack of) and his longevity. There’s something uncomfortable in witnessing others triumphal with their belittling of Cal. 

As the novel progresses, Cal spends time with his teenage son, Kyle and tries to connect, imparting some fatherly advice, when he’s managed to skip the father role for 17 years. There’s a somewhat graphic and hilarious anecdote of a sexual encounter included. He’s sneaks a look at the ex-wives and manager Facebook group, where he is surprised to discover what the exes think of him and that maybe, just maybe the world does not revolve around Cal Baker.  

Overall, I really liked this one. I was entertained throughout, with a few giggles and some pause for self-reflection as well. Some of Cal’s failings, mistakes and the casual hurts inflicted invoked memories of times I’ve been less than thoughtful in how I’ve treated others in my life. A bit of naval gazing sometimes can be good for the soul.

Frank Zafiro writes a mean crime novel. Frank Scalise also writes a mean non-crime novel. 

4.5 from 5

A Village of Strangers and The Hardest Hit have been enjoyed before.  

Read - June, 2022

Published - 2022

Page count - 196

Source - review copy from author

Format - Kindle