Wednesday, October 23, 2013

#39: Femme by Bill Pronzini

The Nameless Detective and his crew get mixed up with the dangerous woman of the title in Bill Pronzini's Femme.

Femme is a new entry in the long Nameless Detective private eye series that has been running for decades.  Although a devoted reader at one time, I had sporadic interest in the series in recent years until I saw this one on the shelves of the Morrisson-Reeves Public Library.  In fact, it seemed so different than its predecessors that I didn't know what I was looking at for a minute.

With its throwback cover and straight-on noir plotting I gained a new interest in what was going on with this long-running character.  I found that despite reaching into pulp roots for material, the protagonist continues to grow and change, along with his supporting cast.

I felt this to be an agreeable enough mystery, probably even more so for fans of Pronzini's work.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

#38: Countdown City by Ben H. Winters

A small-town cop grows to believe that a suicide at a local fast-food restaurant might have actually been murder; but as a giant asteroid is coming to destroy the Earth, nobody much cares but him in Ben H. Winters' genre-bender Countdown City.

A strange mash-up indeed, as if Philip Marlowe washed up in Nevil Shute's On The Beach, and bumped in to Lew Archer.  Countdown City is a very philosophical entry in the apocalyptic genre and a cracking mystery to boot, topped with a harrowing ending (and it's not the world blowing up, this is the first of a trilogy).

This is the book I find myself recommending to everyone this season, joining The Dog Stars, Night Film, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as my recommendations to people who just enjoy good reads.

I bought this in paperback sight unseen because of a recommendation from a friend (who happens to be the cousin of the author), and was sufficiently floored enough to pass it around to several others when I was done.  Suffice to say, recommended.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

#37: Choke Hold by Christa Faust

Former porn star Angel Dare keeps trying to outrun trouble, but once again trouble runs faster in Christa Faust's Choke Hold.

At the apocalyptic denouement of Money Shot, the novel where Angel first appeared, Angel tried to leave behind the sordid porn industry.  However, meeting an old friend--and subsequently being asked for a favor--quickly puts her square in the middle of the only slightly less sordid world of underground fighting.

Very tough noir--part of the impeccable Hard Case Crime line--is for discerning readers only.  But it is a fast-moving, enjoyable read and a good crime story.  I am a fan of Faust and look forward to more of her work.

I bought this for my beloved Kindle and read it quickly.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

#36: 11/22/63 by Stephen King

A schoolteacher finds a time portal in the back of a diner that leads him to 1958, and after a few experiments, he hatches a plan to prevent the Kennedy assassination; but as this is a Stephen King novel, nothing quite goes as planned in 11/22/63.

I have been a bit hot and cold on King's contemporary work, but this is a sprawling, emotionally resonant story that--despite being doorstop length--holds interest throughout.

At first our protagonist tries to undo a grisly murder spree that has left a contemporary friend scarred, and also tries to help another accident victim he learns of in the present. 

Then is a lengthy, ruminative section as the teacher gets a job in a small Texas school and waits for the assassination to get closer.  This is a surprisingly warm-hearted sequence where he (ill-advisedly) falls in love with a young woman and otherwise enjoys his life in what is in some ways a gentler, easier time.

Then the tension ratchets up as the teacher circles closer to his prey, setting in motion a very surprising turn of events.

I listened to this in audiobook from the Morrisson-Reeves Public Library in Richmond, Indiana, and felt the reading--by Craig Wasson--added tremendously to the story.

But this is a solid read for casual readers as well as long-time Stephen King fans.