Wednesday 30 August 2023



It’s New Year and Iceland is still reeling from the effects of the financial crash when a notorious financier is found beaten to death after a high-profile reception at the President’s residence.

The police are certain they have the killer – or do they? Determined to get to the truth, maverick lawyer Stella Blómkvist isn’t so sure.

A stripper disappears from one of city's seediest nightspots, and nobody but Stella seems interested in finding her. A drug mule cooling his heels in a prison cell refuses to speak to anyone but Stella – although she’s never heard of him. An old man makes a deathbed confession and request for Stella to find the family he lost long ago.

With a sharp tongue and a moral compass all of her own, Stella Blómkvist has a talent for attracting trouble and she’s as at home in the corridors of power as in the dark corners of Reykjavík’s underworld.

Stella Blómkvist delivers an explosive mix of murder, intrigue and surprise, and is one of Iceland's best-loved crime series.

Murder at the Residence was a really enjoyable murder mystery, set in Iceland at the time of their financial crisis. There's an intriguing blend of cases for maverick lawyer Stella Blómkvist (our protagonist shares the same name as the author, though our author's true identity is a literary secret).

A missing woman; a murder of a high profile banker with a convenient patsy for the police; an incarcerated drug smuggler; a teenage rebel with authority issues and a decades old family secret which has been buried. Stella has her hands full picking through this little lot.   

Murder, drugs, pimps, politics, social unrest, police corruption, bankers, politicians, a priest, violence on the streets, the Reykjavik criminal underworld, friendships, alliances, secrets, media pressure, and amongst the busy case load a bit of time for some sex and possibly something more.

Great setting, an intriguing main character who I would like to read more about. She's gutsy, determined and capable, I like how she isn't intimidated by powerful forces. 

The writing was smooth and an easy read, which is testament to the translator's skill (hats off to Quentin Bates). The different strands of the plot were easy to follow and I enjoyed how they all came together, with only a smidgeon of coincidence to bind a couple of the elements. It's a busy book for 270-odd pages and there's a decent pace to the story without anything ever seeming rushed.

Overall - very satisfying and one I'd recommend to fans of Icelandic crime fiction.

One minor gripe, Stella's car - a Merc - is constantly referred to as a silver steed. I was irritated by the repetition of the phrase by the third occurrence. Another ten or so occasions just managed to properly annoy me. Why not call a car a car sometimes?

4 stars from 5

Read - August, 2023

Published - 2023

Source - review ARC from publisher Corylus Books

Page count - 270

Format - paperback

Monday 28 August 2023



Translator, Quentin Bates ruminates on the mystery of this Icelandic author's identity....

The 25-year mystery of Stella Blómkvist

 How do you keep a secret like this for twenty-five years in a country where one of the national pastimes is making sure that closely-guarded secrets are blown wide open in record time?

But the writer (or writers) behind the mysterious Stella Blómkvist have managed to keep themselves out of the limelight since the first in the series appeared way back in the nineties. It’s a hell of an achievement. Even Stella’s editor claims to not know the identity of the writer they’re dealing with.

It goes without saying that there’s been plenty of speculation about who writes these sharp, compact crime stories featuring the tough, smart lawyer with her frequently morally flexible approach to life and work.

At one time there was a rumour going around that the then-Prime Minister could be the power behind the Stella Blómkvist tales, but that one doesn’t add up. The names of one or two other public figures have been mentioned as potential candidates – possibly because people assume that politicians have all the free time needed to write novels when they should be working.

It doesn’t help that Iceland is a remarkably literate country. There’s no shortage of possibilities. So let’s narrow it down… The books have been appearing since the late nineties. In fact, the first Stella story appeared in the same year that Arnaldur Indriðason’s first novel was published, that’s back when there was nothing cool in Iceland about crime fiction. How times have changed. These days you can hardly throw a brick in Reykjavík without hitting a crime writer.

Before you ask, no, I don’t believe it’s likely that Arnaldur is Stella...

But whoever’s behind Stella has been doing this for 25 years, so it’s likely to be someone in their fifties or older. This is a person who knows their history and literature – and who also knows their onions when it comes to hard-boiled crime fiction.

There’s hardly a writer in Icelandic who hasn’t at some point or other been suspected of being Stella Blómkvist – and this little country has a lot of writers, so there’s a big field to choose from. The suspects have ranged from literary heavyweights – such as Guðbergur Bergsson and Auður Haralds – to those at the crime fiction end of the spectrum.

It’s something that pops up every time a new Stella novel is published. The speculation gets into gear on social media and then spills over into the mainstream media for a while – sometimes with a few new names floated – and then it all dies away again.

To start with, I was curious. I wondered who Stella Blómkvist’s creator could be. But now, a couple of books in (now that the next in the series has also been translated ready for next year) I’ve changed my mind.
Right now, I’d prefer to Stella to stay mysterious.


Corylus Book is a new venture aiming to publish exciting new voices translated into English.


Murder at the Residence

Stella Blomkvist

28th August 2023 | Paperback/ eBook | Corylus Books | £9.99/£3.49

Available for the first time in English, Quentin Bates has translated the first book in the second wave of Stella Blómkvist novels, Murder at the Residence.

Perfect for readers of Henning Mankell, Arnaldur Indriðason, Gunnar Staalesen and Jussi


Iceland is still reeling from the effects of the financial crash when a notorious financier is found beaten to death after a high-profile reception at the President’s residence.

The police are certain it’s an open and shut case and that they have the man responsible – maverick lawyer Stella Blómkvist isn’t so sure…

The more she investigates, the murkier it all becomes. Secrets are uncovered that powerful people want to keep hidden, and a seedy trail of sex, murder, and blackmail leads Stella into a twisted maze of ruthless corruption at the very heart of government itself.

Stella Blómkvist is a hard-nosed, quick-witted lawyer with a dark past and a taste for whiskey and easy money. She will be plunged her into a violent political conspiracy which threatens Iceland’s very future…


It has been twenty-five years since the first Stella Blómkvist story was published and this long-running series continues to be a consistent bestseller in Iceland. What’s remarkable is that in a tiny community such as Iceland, the identity of the Stella Blómkvist (the author) who writes these sharp, sassy tales of the exploits of Stella Blómkvist (the lawyer) has remained under wraps.

The first book appeared in 1997 and the series continued for six books up to 2006, when Stella Blómkvist seemed to have retired. Then in 2012, Stella was back, angrier, more mature and better formed as a character in a continuation of the series. The latest appeared in 2022, bringing the total to thirteen to date.


Corylus Book is a new venture aiming to publish exciting new voices translated into English.

There has been endless speculation, and longstanding rumours that Stella is a leading politician, a well-known public figure, a much-loved children’s author. There’s hardly a writer in Iceland who hasn’t at some time or other been suspected of being Stella.


Quentin Bates (or Gráskeggur ‘grey beard’ as he’s affectionately known in Iceland) is one of a handful of British authors writing Scandi Noir set in Iceland, and who has a deep understanding of the country and its people. Having lived there for long periods and being married to a local for forty years has given him a deep insight into and affection for Iceland, all of which makes him more qualified than most to write about Iceland.

He’s one of the founders, with Yrsa Sigurdardóttir and Ragnar Jónasson, of the Iceland Noir crime fiction festival. As well as his own fiction, he has become increasingly busy in the last few years as the translator of Lilja Sigurðardóttir, Sólveig Pálsdóttir, Ragnar Jónasson and Óskar Guðmundsson – and now the mysterious Stella Blómkvist.

For further information, please contact Emily Burns | PR Director | 078709787611

Tuesday 30 May 2023



Synopsis/blurb ....

A gritty, fast-paced neo-noir that explores the consumptive nature of fame, celebrity, and motherhood through the lens of a driver lost in the gig economy.

A struggling songwriter and Lyft driver, Adam Zantz’s life changes when he accepts a ride request in Malibu and 1970s music icon Annie Linden enters his dented VW Jetta. Bonding during that initial ride, the two quickly go off app— over the next three years, Adam becomes her exclusive driver and Annie listens to his music, encouraging Adam even as he finds himself driving more often than songwriting.

Then, Annie disappears, and her body washes up under a pier. Left with a final, cryptic text— ‘come to my arms’— a grieving Adam plays amateur detective, only to be charged as accomplice-after-the-fact. Desperate to clear his name and discover who killed the one person who believed in his music when no one else in his life did, Adam digs deep into Annie’s past, turning up an old guitar teacher, sworn enemies and lovers, and a long-held secret that spills into the dark world of a shocking underground Men’s Rights movement. As he drives the outskirts of Los Angeles in California, Adam comes to question how well he, or anyone else, knew Annie— if at all. 

The Last Songbird is a poignant novel about love, obsession, the price of fame and the burden of broken dreams, with a shifting, twisting plot that's full of unexpected turns.

Intriguing, engrossing and entertaining. My reading mojo has vanished of late, but this one from Daniel Weizmann has gotten me back on the right path.

We have a captivating murder mystery in which the main character, a washed up, failed musician, Adam Zante investigates the death of his employer-cum-'friend', the 70s musical icon, Annie Linden. Zante spends as much time discovering who Linden was, as he does trying to unravel the circumstances of her death.

While he digs, Weizmann had this reader musing on the meaning of family, from both the perspective of our victim and the investigator, and by extension what it means to myself. The whole gamut of emotions are explored.... love, pain, regret, mistakes, callousness, indifference, anger, secrets, power dynamics, pettiness, punishment, connectivity and ties and bonds or the lack thereof and memories.

As well as an opportunity to indulge in some reflective naval gazing, Weizmann had me invested in discovering who did what and why. Zante's drip-fed discoveries, the little information nuggets were exposed credibly and had me believing in his abilities as a decent sleuth. I have my fingers crossed that Weizmann may have more Adam Zante books in the pipeline.

There's jeopardy in  our main player's his quest. He is attacked and threatened several times, as are some of the other parties, who are privy to some of Linden's confidences. So there is some violence, another fatality and a level of danger and action which ramps up the stakes a little bit more, before a fitting concusion.

Overall I really enjoyed this one. It had all the ingredients I like in a book. Pace, plot, a sympathetic main character, a decent setting and a believable outcome.

4.5 stars from 5

Read - May, 2023

Published - 2023

Page count - 336

Source - review copy from publisher, Melville House

Format - paperback ARC  

Thursday 2 February 2023


Synopsis/blurb ...


Who – or what – is killing members of the Navajo tribe? RESERVATIONS, the first book of the Jack Del Rio political mystery/thriller series, is set near Gallup, New Mexico, where the Navajo, Hopi and Zuni reservations lie adjacent. Three tribal leaders have been murdered - murdered in a fashion that suggests the deeds were carried out by COYOTE, a legendary supernatural evil trickster feared by many Native Americans.

The tribal president contacts an old friend in the FBI for assistance in solving the crimes and preventing more murders. Star agent, Jack Del Rio, is dispatched to New Mexico where he finds a situation tangled in political intrigue. Jack must work his way through those issues on his way to solving the mystery. Sparks fly as Navajo police officer Lucy Chee is assigned to assist him in his quest.

Question is can Del Rio and Chee solve the mystery and find the killer before he strikes again? Because the killer is on the hunt and he has his sights on Del Rio himself.

Enjoyable enough, but not amazing.

Interesting setting, informative backdrop with Navajo characters, customs, history and culture at the heart of the mystery. Decent main character, an outsider who operates in the environment sensitively. 

I enjoyed the story, it's quite pacey without feeling rushed. There is more than one murder to be solved and time is crucial before too many more victims are created. The ending was credible and satisfied me, answering all the questions previously posed. The motive for the murders held up.

I did have some minor gripes. I found the raison d'etre for the main tribal leader withholding information from the investigator initially unconvincing. And I found the main character's back story involving events occurring previously in London and involving the Queen, eye-rolling and near vomit inducing. I think the author went a bit OTT regarding his credibility. He could easily have been shown to be a capable and competent agent without resorting to a gimmick.

Otherwise lots to like about it, including a well sketched support cast of characters, a touch of romance and overall a satisfying multiple murder mystery. This one is the first in Paolinelli's Jack Del Rio series and I wouldn't be averse to trying another one in the series when time allows.

I liked the narration from Theo Holland - one of the best in the business in my opinion.

3.5 stars from 5

Richard Paolinelli's work has been enjoyed before - The Last Lonely Trail, co-authored with Jim Christina.

Read - (listened to) January, 2023

Published - 2015

Page count - 350 (6 hrs 46 mins)

Source - Audible purchase

Format - Audible

Monday 23 January 2023



Synopsis/blurb ...

Meet Sam Applewhite, security consultant for DefCon4’s east coast office. .

She’s clever, inventive and adaptable. In her job she has to be.

Now, she’s facing an impossible mystery.

A client has gone missing and no one else seems to care.

Who would want to kill an old and lonely woman whose only sins are having a sharp tongue and a belief in ghosts? Could her death be linked to the new building project out on the dunes?

Can Sam find out the truth, even if it puts her friends’ and family’s lives at risk?

A bit of quirky comedy crime fiction which there was more to enjoy than not. That said, some of the humour was a bit hit and miss and there were no outright belly laughs.

A seal, an alligator, a property deal in jeopardy, an elderly parent, a cactus for a work companion, an old flame reappearing, a new friend, a useless cop, a missing woman, a couple of crims - one dim, one not so. An amateur investigation.

The book grew on me as the story progressed, as early stages it was a bit like swimming through treacle. I wasn''t really vibing the story. 

By the end I was enjoying things. Decent storyline, eccentric cast of characters, multiple character POVs as the reader was privy to events the main character Sam wasn't. Interesting setting of Skegness and the surrounding area. Satisfying pay off. 

3 stars from 5.

Sealfinger is the first in the co-authors' Sam Applewhite series. I think there are three more in the series. Not rushing to any more of them if I'm honest. Too many other books are demanding my attention. 

Read - January, 2023

Published - 2021

Page count - 412

Source - Kindle Unlimited

Format - Kindle

Friday 20 January 2023


Synopsis/blurb ...

At the heart of the book is George Gattling of Gainesville, Florida, fighting the boredom, the excruciating unimportance, of his existence.

He has a successful custom-seatcover business, a family of sorts – his sister Precious, who lies in bed reading aloud the “Ask Them Yourselves” questions in Family Weekly; her son Fred, who every now and then utters one word like “cork” or “toe” and is definitely either retarded or a genius; and Betty, a psychology major whose actual study is copulation.

And he has his hawk.

The hawk is the mirror for all of George’s held-in passions. It goes with him everywhere – to breakfast, to Betty’s bed, to a funeral home at four in the morning. When the hawk at last springs from his arm, prompted by the thought of freedom, swooping for its prey, life will become exciting, animated, tumultuous.

In a story filled with scenes that are funny and touching and wonderfully bawdy Harry Crews has superbly described the search of a man for release into a world where the senses are quickly awakened and emotions are unrestrained.

Enjoyable, interesting, informative on the art of trying to train a hawk, funny and sad.

The main character is eccentric, obsessional and unwilling to live according to other people's expectations. He cares deeply for his nephew and values the times they spend together. He probably cares more for his hawk though. There's a real battle of wills as he seeks to dominate it. I enjoyed the history lesson Crews serves up in respect of the history of falconry through the years.

Our main character, George suffers a grievous loss in the book, an incident that is by turn funny, horrific and absurd. Ditto the follow up scene when he visits the funeral parlour. 

I've not read any Harry Crews for a fair few years. I'm minded to dig out some of the other treasures in the collection.

4 stars from 5

Read - December, 2022

Published - 1973

Page count - 244 

Source - owned copy

Format - Hardback (Secker & Warburg)

Thursday 19 January 2023


Synopsis/blurb ...

In this first Inspector Banks novel, a peeping tom is frightening the women of Eastvale; two young thugs are breaking into homes; and an old woman may or may not have been murdered. Inspector Banks investigates these cases, which weave together as the story reaches a tense climax.

Judging by the fact that I could find books numbered 2 to 18 from this series in my collection, it's probably a safe bet to assume I've read this one before. Long enough ago that I couldn't remember anything about it.

Enjoyable, interesting, multiple cases going on, hence quite a busy book. I quite liked the main character. I was curious to see if he would succumb to temptation with the attractive profiler he is working with, in respect of the peeping tom situation. Banks is married with two children, but inevitably the job gets in the way of family life.

Enjoyable setting of Yorkshire, albeit a fictional town and a decent cast of supporting police characters, both underlings and an understanding boss.

All three cases get solved. Solid detective work closes one, a rash act solves another and a bit of luck combined with a hunch from Banks completes the set.

I've been enjoying the TV adaptations of the books recently which inspired me to pick this one up. I must have fancied reading them at one time, otherwise why hoover up so many. Hopefully I'll read the next one at some point this year.

4 stars from 5

Author Peter Robinson sadly passed in 2022. His shortish offering Seven Years was enjoyed back in 2021.   

Read - January, 2023

Published - 1987

Page count - 321

Source - Kindle Unlimited

Format - Kindle



Synopsis/blurb ...

Morgan needed a little help, just something to keep his head above water, but tight-fisted old Uncle Mike wouldn't hear of it. If Morgan didn't get that money, they'd kill him, so else could he do but take matters into his own hands?

Includes an excerpt from BURN ME OUT, the newest, 5-star rated novel by Brandon Barrows!

50% story, 50% preview of Barrows' latest book, Burn Me Out - something which sits on the TBR pile.

I enjoyed both, though I think I might have crossed paths with Above Water before - one of those stories that oozes familiarity but has a certain don't know where, don't know when vibe.

Violence, shame, desperation, frustration, family, loss, poor choices, generational differences, uncontrolled anger, and a certain inevitability about the outcome. Our main character isn't the sharpest tool in the box.

I liked it.

4 from 5

The excerpt was less explosive but interesting. An older career criminal, basically a low level messenger/gopher/employee/collector type seems to be tiring of his occupation. Retirement isn't always an option.  

Read - January, 2023

Published - 2021

Page count - 29

Source - Kindle Unlimited

Format - Kindle

Sunday 8 January 2023


Despite a wish to cut down on acquiring new books and to read more of the ones I've already acquired, I don't think I will be able to go a whole year without some fresh blood into the collection.

Here's six I'll be keeping an eye out for.......

Stephen Solomita - The Wrong Side of the Grass

A truck hijacking on a New York street goes badly awry in this new novel from an author who writes “top-notch hard-boiled crime fiction” (Booklist).
It was a sure thing. A truck with a thousand cartons of cigarettes, at a wholesale price of sixty dollars each. Mike Tedesco had thought through the foolproof plan for the early-morning hijacking. The only tricky part was disabling the GPS system that enabled the owner to track the truck and its valuable contents. He brought along the expert who swore he could do it in three minutes. He couldn’t, so Tedesco shot him dead in the middle of the rainy street in uptown Manhattan before fleeing the scene.

NYPD Detective Dante Cepeda is called in and quickly decides he can solve this one—his great joy—as he explains to the attractive redheaded sergeant who works the case with him. The hunt leads Cepeda to a Russian mafioso, Tedesco’s gorgeous girlfriend,  a curse that needs a blood sacrifice, and a scarred pit bull who’s survived a life of dogfights. A gritty tale of greed and casual violence, the latest crime novel from the Hammett Prize nominee is realistic, shocking, and relentlessly compelling.
“Solomita knows his city and his people, and he writes with both muscle and sensitivity.” —Los Angeles Times
“A keen observer of humanity.” —Publishers Weekly
“A master at capturing on paper the flavor of streetwise cops and robbers and their victims.” —Library Journal
“Solomita has Elmore Leonard’s flair for letting you view the world through his character’s eyes, no matter how narrow or how bloodshot.” —The New York Times

Thomas Perry - Murder Book

An ex-cop takes on a widespread criminal organization targeting midwestern towns in this new thriller from the author of The Old Man

When a sudden crime wave hits several small midwestern towns, the U.S. Attorney for the region calls on Harry Duncan to investigate. An ex-cop known for his unorthodox methods, Duncan is reluctant to go up against a widespread criminal organization—but the attorney in question is Ellen Leicester, the wife who left him fifteen years earlier, and to her, he can’t say no.

Initially brought in as a consultant to determine if the racketeering is severe enough to require an all-out investigation by the FBI, Duncan quickly finds himself in conflict with a syndicate far more violent than first suspected. As the investigation develops, he begins compiling a “murder book,” the notebook in which a detective keeps records, interviews, photos—everything he needs to build his case. But his scrutiny of the gang soon makes Duncan a target. And Ellen, too.

A thrilling and suspenseful tour of crime-addled midwestern towns, Murder Book is signature Thomas Perry, with characters you won’t soon forget, crisply-described action sequences, and breathlessly-tense plotting that will keep you racing through the pages.

Mick Herron - The Secret Hours

The standalone spy thriller Slough House fans have been waiting for

By the author of SLOW HORSES, now an Apple Original series streaming on Apple TV+ starring Gary Oldman and Kristin Scott Thomas.

Monochrome is a busted flush—an inquiry into the misdeeds of the intelligence services, established by a vindictive prime minister but rendered toothless by a wily chief spook. For years it has ground away uselessly, interviewing witnesses with nothing to offer, producing a report with nothing to say, while the civil servants at its helm see their careers disappearing into a black hole.

And then the OTIS file falls into their hands.

What secrets does this hold that see a long-redundant spook being chased through Devon’s green lanes in the dark? What happened in a newly reunified Berlin that someone is desperate to keep under wraps? And who will win the battle for the soul of the secret service—or was that decided a long time ago?

Spies and pen-pushers, politicians and PAs, high-flyers, time-servers and burn-outs . . . They all have jobs to do in the daylight.

But what they do in the secret hours reveals who they really are.

Dietrich Kalteis - The Get

A surefire plan that will end his marital and money problems in one swoop … what could go wrong?

Lenny Ovitz has plenty of secrets, and his wife, Paulina, has become a liability. His life would be so much better without her in it.

It’s the mid-’60s in Toronto, and Lenny works for a ruthless gangster whose travel agency is a front for a collections racket in the Kensington Market area. Lenny’s days are spent with his partner, Gabe, terrorizing the locals into paying protection on their shops and their lives. On the side, Lenny and Gabe co-own a tenement block that they bought with dirty money borrowed from shady individuals. Overextended, Lenny plans to pay them back with more borrowed money from other loans and by re-mortgaging his house, without the knowledge of his wife.

Tired of his lies and scheming, Paulina demands a divorce. Lenny is certain she’s going to take him for everything, leaving him unable to pay the debt on the tenement block. And that’s likely to get him pitched off one of his own rooftops. Lenny would rather get than be gotten, so he comes up with a surefire way to end both his marital and money problems — Paulina’s going to have to get whacked.

Alan Parks - To Die in June

Details? Nada

It'll be the sixth Harry McCoy ....

Lawrence Block - The Autobiography of Matthew Scudder

Details? Nada

Only a heads-up from the man himself via a recent newsletter. Roll on June ...

Friday 6 January 2023



Synopsis/blurb ...


Kind-hearted Mitchell they called me, the private eye with the soft centre. Only this time I wasn't living up to my name. It had become a case of the survival of the fittest and I was determined that if I had to go down, I'd go down fighting.

As it turned out I had very little choice. Pollard had hired me to see if his wife was cheating on him and it didn't need Sherlock Holmes to find that she was. The guy's name was Murdock, that much I knew. But when I tried to find out more I came up against a brick wall at every turn. A brick wall and a face full of fist. It was the fist that made me realise that, if I wasn't careful, I could end up in a very unpleasant situation. Or to put it another way, dead ...

NEON MADMAN is the fourth of Scott Mitchell's violent-action private eye adventures. Don't miss



JUNKYARD ANGEL - all available in Sphere Books 

Another book that has probably sat on my shelves ignored for about 10 years or more. Well worth the wait in fact, as unlike other previously encountered British PI mysteries, this one seemed authentic and not an imitation of the type of book more readily set in the US.

Interesting story, interesting main character, London setting, plenty of tough guy action with our main character mainly on the receiving end of threats and intimidation, after accepting a case.

A few months on from reading it, a lot of the finer details have vanished from the memory banks, but what I can recall is being absorbed by the story, the outcome, the characters and the fast pace of the book. At under 150 pages it probably only took me a day or two to blow through it. Mitchell is definitely a character I would like to read more about.

John Harvey is an author who I have read very little from. I've collected most of his Resnick and Frank Elder series books without dipping into them. I did try and hoover up the Scott Mitchell series, of which this is the last, without success. Very scarce and very expensive - when I looked back in the day. When having another look, post-consumption of this I see to my delight that they have been republished in the past few years by Mysterious Press. Maybe I'll get to catch up with the other three in the series. 

Previous encounters with this author were in the days before the blog - Trouble in Mind (a novella, May 2010) and Bluer Than This (poems, June, 2011) 

Overall 4.5 stars from 5

Read - September, 2022

Published - 1977

Page count - 144

Source - owned copy

Format - Paperback

Thursday 5 January 2023


Synopsis/blurb ...


A short story that was published in the BEAT to a PULP: Superhero anthology back in 2012.  

What makes a superhero? Someone with special powers ... Ordinary people doing good deeds ... Anyone with sophisticated technological gadgets and incredible agility? Superheroes can spring up from the most unexpected people in the most unusual places, and BEAT to a PULP: Superhero has gathered some of the best hardboiled and noir crime stories with a superhero bend. Billy Mitchell, the six-year-old "Red Avenger" in Kevin Burton Smith's tale, has an innocence and a special something that draws us to want to don a mask and tie a towel around our necks. Steve Weddle dissects the reality of a world in which super-powered "others" walk in the midst of normal people who tend to quote only parts of the Bible. And James Reasoner's story is set in a time not usually associated with superheroes -- the American Revolution -- yet Patrick Mainwaring finds the classic essence of a superhero. Other top contributors include Jake Hinkson, Garnett Elliott, Liam Jose, Sandra Seamans, Jerry Bloomfield, Thomas Pluck, Keith Rawson, Court Merrigan, Benoit Lelievre, and Chad Eagleton. If you like the work of Frank Miller or the recent Dark Knight films directed by Christopher Nolan, then you'll enjoy the grit of these thirteen tales in BEAT to a PULP: Superhero.

Don't know where I originally located this story to read, probably from the website listed below.

I've enjoyed Jake Hinkson's work before, probably not as much of it as I would have liked to have read, but that's a familiar theme for most of the authors whose work I cross paths with and admire. Hell on Church Street was enjoyed back in 2013, Saint Homicide in 2014 and The Big Ugly in 2020.

Apparently this story was a re-read, as I enjoyed it as part of my short story a day month back in August 2018. Funny but I don't remember reading it before.

Enjoyable, interesting, entertaining, a decent set-up and a satisfying pay-off.

Top marks for imagination, character, and a mystery element, with a puzzle created and solved in the space of a 20 minute read. I think I like reading about Superheros more than I enjoy seeing them on the big screen. At least we get where we are going a lot quicker.

Dry County, The Deepening Shade and The Posthumous Man still sit on the TBR pile.

Overall 4 stars from 5

It's a shame that the anthology that this one appeared in no longer seems to be readily available. Oh well, I'm not hurting for books.

Read - January, 2023

Published - 2012

Page count - 17

Source - Beat to a Pulp website

Format - PDF

Wednesday 4 January 2023



Synopsis/blurb ...

City Hall is on Lewis-and-Clark Street, so it was the 14th Precinct that got the call, and very soon the 14th Precinct, in the persons of Detective Sergeants Moto and Pincus, was on the spot, bending down and looking into the car at the condom-shrouded figure of Ratty Scarlatti but not touching anything because the m.o. and the scene-of-crime crew hadn't gotten here yet, being stuck in the traffic jam on Eighth thanks to the burst sewer there...

It might seem like just another case for the gallant boys of the 14th but, as the days progress and Moto (look, just don't make any jokes about his name, okay?) and Pincus delve deeper, the body count rises inexorably, with each murder reaching a new height of ludicrous surrealism – if not downright impossibility. It seems there's an avenger on the loose in the enigmatic city.

Yet is the unknown perpetrator truly seeking vengeance? Is the motive instead to patch up this version of reality in the least implausible fashion possible before its inhabitants begin to suspect there's something fundamentally awry? Or are there operators moving at an even deeper level than reality? 

An homage to Ed McBain's 87th Precinct with a really enjoyable mystery which kind of wanders into other world territory before returning to familiar ground.

I enjoyed the story, the absurdity of the murders, the interactions between the two main detectives and the police hierarchy, Detective Pincus and his family and also the support CSI with the chemistry between her and Moto. I liked the respect between Pincus and Moto underlined by Moto'swithheld knowledge regarding Pincus's wife's background.

Great fun overall. Really entertaining. A cracking read for an hour or two. 

My one regret is that I didn't read it while friend of the blog, John Grant was alive. Bless him. I miss his reviews, his emails and his visits to this page.

4 from 5

Read - January, 2022

Published - 2008

Page count - 91

Source - copy received from author

Format - PDF

Tuesday 3 January 2023



Synopsis/blurb ...

During a robbery, Blinky sees police activity down the street. His crew assumes cops have the art gallery surrounded, unaware of their true presence, which is responding to a car accident that has left one man dead. The thieves shoot at responding officers and take hostages. When Detective Reynolds arrives on the scene, he identifies the dead man involved in the car accident. This becomes his main lead to hunt down the thieves' true identities and work out a peaceful resolution before S.W.A.T moves in.

Each thief has a story explaining why he chose to take the job. Inky is a con artist repaying an old debt, Blinky is a stuntman in need of quick cash, Pinky is an enforcer that's looking to move up in the ranks and Clyde is a sociopath / art aficionado that loves to steal. When S.W.A.T teams get the "go-ahead" to overtake the gallery, it's dog-eat-dog as the gunmen plan their escape.

Enjoyable. Good not great, slightly confusing with the number of characters I had to keep tabs on, not helped by three of them being called Inky, Pinky and Blinky. I don't know why the fourth member of the gang was called Clyde, the author might as well have gone all in and called him Winky IMO.

We have an art heist which goes wrong, due to an unforeseen accident on the street outside - which involves another gang up to no good. Our bandits never really get back on track after that .... confusion, chaos, mayhem, violence, death, a falling out among thieves, conflict, danger, cops, a SWAT team, a rushed investigation, some backstory and tangetial details and an outcome which I liked.

More to like than not. Plenty of short, snappy scenes most of which were confrontational. Decent writing and with the constant, fast-moving action and incident I was never bored.

3.5 stars from 5 

Read - January, 2023

Published - 2017

Page count - 140

Source - purchased copy

Format - Paperback

Sunday 1 January 2023


Synopsis/blurb ...

MI6 agent Will Cochrane is living in Washington, D.C. when a dangerous terrorist, codenamed Trapper, escapes from a top secret CIA military base.  Trapper comes after Will—saying he is the one who killed his leader—but Will knows there has to be more to this story. Will gets close enough to shut the man down, but when he does, that act opens the door to yet another, much more dangerous surprise . . .

A 50-50 book. Half of it is a novella which introduces the reader to Will Cochrane (though it's not the first Cochrane story Dunn has penned) and gives his history and back story as an agent. Half of it is a 50-odd page preview for Dark Spies, a full length novel in the series - number 4 of 7.

I think I actually preferred the preview section to the novella which kind of ends a little bit abruptly for me, without a real conclusion in this Trapper-Cochrane confrontation. 

There's action, character development, a story with conflict, power, control, manipulation, history and an ending which didn't really satisfy and left more questions than answers. Cochrane's lovey-doveyness with his agent babysitter seemed a bit unlikely and not especially convincing. Conclusion apart, I enjoyed the other elements with a decent set-up and hook to draw me in. Maybe one of the later books in the Cochrane series brings things with Trapper to a proper conclusion. 

The first few chapters of Dark Spies kind of hooked me and has me wanting to see what happens next. Cochrane disobeys orders to save a CIA agent and finds himself on the outside of his organisation and a  hunted man. Without actively seeking out the book (the 2023 resolution to rein in the book buying is holding firm on day two), I'll keep an eye out for it should I cross paths with it in the wild. 

The Spycatcher - the first in the Will Cochrane series - is in the collection somewhere (tub 58), maybe I'll dust it off as I'm currently on a bit of an espionage/spy reading spree. 

3 stars from 5

Read - January, 2023

Published - 2014

Page count - 118

Source - purchased copy

Format - Kindle