Monday, December 30, 2013

#48: The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

A famous fashion model plunges to her death on a London street, but her brother thinks it was murder; it's up to down-on-his-luck private eye Cormoran Strike to find out the truth in The Cuckoo's Calling.

The Cuckoo's Calling was reportedly the first novel by Robert Galbraith, and it caused a minor sensation when the world learned it was actually J.K. Rowling writing under a pseudonym.  It seems more obvious now, as this novel is written more in her whimsical, humorous style, playing with character names and offbeat situations.

Strike is a fully-realized character, a former military policeman who lost a leg in the Middle East, and more famously the illegitimate son of a legendary rocker father.  His Girl Friday, Robin, a temp with a secret love of private eye life, is an interesting foil.

But The Cuckoo's Calling is definitely a novel for adults, and as far afield from Harry Potter as Rowling could go.  Why she wanted to write this under a pseudonym is certainly worth speculating on.

But nonetheless this is a solid, legitimate crime novel and I would hope--Rowling's outing as the author or no--that Rowling writes more about Strike and Robin. 

I checked this out as an audio book from the Morrisson-Reeves Public Library in Richmond, Indiana and finished it at the very end of the year.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

#47: The Oxbow Deed by Clement Hardin

Fresh out of prison and wrongly accused, an aging cattle hand--and a hot-tempered friend he made behind bars--come home to find the ranch he left behind overrun by owlhoots, backstabbers, and other villainy in Clement Hardin's The Oxbow Deed.

Hardin, actually Dwight Bennett Newton, had a long run as a Western scribe, and this outing (the other half of an Ace Double on the flip side of Kincaid, which I reviewed earlier this year) is a highly serviceable read.

There are lots of standard characters--a blustery but fair ranch boss, his innocent daughter, a sinister gun hand who's actually a coward--but a few nice surprises and a satisfactory wrap-up.

I found this Ace Double Western at a flea market at a goodbye price and read both sides.

Undemanding but enjoyable, and I will keep my eyes peeled for more classic Clement Hardin.

Friday, December 27, 2013

#46: Give Our Regards to the Atomsmashers by Sean Howe

Fans of Jonathan Lethem and Michael Chabon will enjoy Give Our Regards to the Atomsmashers, a collection of essays where contemporary writers weigh in on their love of comic books, both reading and collecting.

This is an eclectic collection which covers everything from mainstream titles like Teen Titans to cult comic American Flag to classics like Little Nemo in Slumberland and a little of everything else along the spectrum.  Casual to hardcore comic book fans, or fans of some of the authors included (Brad Meltzer, Glen David Gold, Jonathan Lethem himself), will find something of interest within.

I was given this as a Christmas present from a friend and read it very quickly.  Enjoyable.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

#45: Assignment Black Viking by Edward S. Aarons

American secret agent Sam Durell is after a device that controls the weather--which has inconveniently fell into the hands of the Red Chinese--in Edward S. Aaron's spy thriller Assignment Black Viking.

I think Aarons' Sam Durell books are underrated, considering the long span of time Aarons wrote them, and his ability to sustain an overall quality spy fiction series that is comparable to anyone.

This one, from the late 60s, tries for some of the outlandish plotting of the time period, which doesn't sit as easily on the normally sober agent called The Cajun.

Although I would consider this a minor Durell adventure, it is still enjoyable, especially as Durell deals with the deranged Scandinavian of the title, a seemingly unkillable foe who inexplicably wants to return the world to medieval times.

After a serious binge I had set aside Edward S. Aarons for a while, but I sense a return.  Recommended for fans of classic spy fiction.

Friday, December 6, 2013

#44: The Oxford Murders by Guillermo Martínez

A young mathematician teams up with his mentor to solve a series of murders seemingly tied to a mathematical problem in Guillermo Martinez's The Oxford Murders.

If you are a big fan of math, and a big fan of mysteries, this novel is for you.  As I bottomed out in high school Algebra II in 1983, I found myself skimming some of the brainteasing parts and focusing more on the very tidy little mystery (although it was marred, I thought, but a jarringly enigmatic ending). 

Overall nicely written from the point of view of the protagonist in the future, writing about arriving in Oxford in the distant past, with all the memories surrounding what became a significant event in his life.

Loaned to me by a colleague, I read it quickly.  Nice for mystery fans.