Monday, June 20, 2011

#25: Assignment Lili Lamaris by Edward S. Aarons

Superspy Sam Durrell relies on a world-famous ballerina, in deep with gangsters and drugs, to help him smash a spy ring in Edward S. Aarons' Assignment Lili Lamaris, another stalwart entry in the lengthy spy series.

This adventure from the early 60s reads more Mickey Spillane than Ian Fleming as Durrell acts a bit more as a bodyguard/gumshoe figure, getting and giving out beatings at a steady pace and dealing with all sorts of lowlifes, including a crime boss and a sinister, legless doctor.

But the backdrop is largely Rome, which is why I picked this one up after a recent visit there (and, curiously, some of the action takes place in Ostia, where I also had a chance to spend a day).  Aarons always has a good sense of place to give interest to his hard-nosed storytelling.

I believe this series is entirely agreeable, and I would rate this outing in the upper half of a steady collection of these I have worked through since rediscovering Aarons a few short years ago.

I nabbed this one for pocket change at a used bookstore in Muncie, Indiana.

Monday, June 13, 2011

#24: Three Stations by Martin Cruz Smith

Moscow police investigator Arkady Renko, an outsider in his own department, still puts his skills to work trying to solve a young woman's murder and a baby's disappearance in Martin Cruz Smith's Three Stations.

Smith's series has chronicled life in Russia for several decades now, oftentimes with long intervals between novels (though they are starting to come out considerably faster lately).  This is a credible, admirable crime series that started with the well-known Gorky Park but has produced many notable entries since then (my favorite is probably Polar Star) that are as much socio-political treatises as they are mysteries.

Wolves Eat Dogs and Stalin's Ghost, the most recent novels in the series, represent Putin-era Russia and might be a jumping-off point for new readers.

I checked this out from the Morrison-Reeves Public Library in Richmond, Indiana and read it quickly.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

#23: He Walked In Her Sleep by Peter Cheyney

A genial London safecracker confounds rival criminals and the police in equal measure in Peter Cheyney's He Walked In Her Sleep.

My one regret when visiting the book stalls on the South Bank in London was not buying more British pulp paperbacks when I had the chance the first time I walked through the area.  But when I went back I was able to snag this lone book before they closed up, from British pulp writer Peter Cheyney (perhaps best known for creating private eye Lemmy Caution). 

Despite the lurid cover and noirish title this turned out to be a collection of short stories more in the vein of Leslie Charteris' The Saint.  Though expecting something more hard-boiled, it turned out to be a breezy collection of adventures whereas our somewhat tarnished protagonist Alonzo MacTavish and his sidekicks generally do more good than harm in double-crossing bad guys and generally outwitting the police.

This was an easy read over a few days and I hope to find more of Peter Cheyney's writing somewhere.