Thursday, 30 June 2022
COLIN CONWAY - CUTLER'S RETURN (2021)
Tuesday, 28 June 2022
JOHN NICHOLL - BULLY BOY BLUE (2017)
Monday, 27 June 2022
GARRY DISHER - THE WAY IT IS NOW (2021)
JON A. JACKSON - THE DIE-HARD (1977)
Saturday, 25 June 2022
PAUL HEATLEY - CUTTHROAT (2020)
Friday, 24 June 2022
JOHN LE CARRE - SILVERVIEW (2021)
SUSAN SPANN - FIRES OF EDO (2022)
Thursday, 23 June 2022
MARK ROGERS - GRAY HUNTER (2022)
Wednesday, 22 June 2022
JOHN GODEY - A THRILL A MINUTE WITH JACK ALBANY (1966)
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
WILLIAM BAYER - SWITCH (1984)
Monday, 20 June 2022
ELLERY QUEEN - THE AMERICAN GUN MYSTERY (1933)
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.
Overall 2.5 from 5
Read - June, 2022
Published - 1933
Page count - 317
Source - Net Galley
Format - Kindle
Saturday, 18 June 2022
HANSJÖRG SCHNEIDER - THE BASEL KILLINGS (2004/2021)
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
JOCELYN DAVEY - A TOUCH OF STAGEFRIGHT (1960)
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
MARGOT KINBERG - STREETS OF GOLD (2022)
Wednesday, 15 June 2022
TOM PICCIRILLI - THE NIGHT CLASS (2000)
Tuesday, 14 June 2022
CHRISTOPHER BROOKMYRE - A BIG BOY DID IT AND RAN AWAY (2001)
Monday, 13 June 2022
LAWRENCE BLOCK - FUNNY YOU SHOULD ASK (2013)
Sunday, 12 June 2022
CRAIG A. HART - SERENITY AVENGED (2017)
Saturday, 11 June 2022
LAWRENCE BLOCK - SCENARIOS (2011)
Friday, 10 June 2022
BILL CRIDER - CURSED TO DEATH (1988)
Thursday, 9 June 2022
FRANK SCALISE - A BAKER'S DIVORCE (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.
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