Wednesday, December 31, 2014

#44: Darth Maul Shadow Hunter by Michael Reaves

A fledgling Jedi and a smuggler with a heart of gold team up when they stumble upon a dangerous secret, only to have Darth Maul on their heels in Michael Reeves' Darth Maul Shadow Hunter.

I like Star Wars, but like a lot of fans around for the original 70s trilogy I have never taken to the second trilogy, which began with The Phantom Menace.  I feel like a trilogy of movies--plus all of the related materials with novels, comics, and games--which tells a long story about how evil triumphs at every turn to be a bit melancholy.

This novel takes place just before The Phantom Menace and, for fans of that storyline, leads directly into events in that tale.  As a novel, I would recommend it more for Star Wars completeists rather than casual readers, though it is solidly written.

I got this book for Christmas and read it quickly, finishing out 2014.

Monday, December 29, 2014

#43: The Wolfer by Loren Estleman

A bounty is put on the head of an uncanny, murderous wolf and his pack, who have been raiding ranches and terrorizing settlers; but when a legendary wolf hunter gets on his trail--followed by an Eastern dandy/writer--the wolfer find himself the target of a hunt as well.

Loren Estleman's The Wolfer is a top-shelf western, from a prolific and solid writer of both mysteries and westerns, as well as a smattering of other topics.  I am a steady reader of his Amos Walker mysteries and Page Murdock westerns.

Estleman is almost always pleasing to read, no matter the genre, and I found this one to be particularly enjoyable for readers of westerns or perhaps even adventure genres.

I seek out Estleman wherever I may find him; this paperback was a goodbye price at a flea market, and I read it quickly.

Friday, December 19, 2014

#42: The Devotion of Supsect X by Keigo Higashino

A single mother with an abusive ex-husband gets help from a reclusive neighbor, but all is not what it seems in Keigo Higashino's The Devotion of Suspect X.

This was a good mystery with an interesting Japanese setting that adds a lot of flavor to the storytelling.  The dynamics of the characters was also compelling, with a battle of wits forming between the gruff detective; his old friend who is a brilliant professor and amateur sleuth; and the professor's old classmate, an equally brilliant mathematician whose motives towards the single mother are gradually revealed.

A change of pace mystery, from an author I would like to read more from.  I believe the policeman and his friend return in other novels, so I hope to be able to find them translated into English.

I checked this out from the Morrisson-Reeves Public Library in Richmond, Indiana.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

#41: Buchanan's Revenge by Jonas Ward

Buchanan is a drifter and knockabout who doesn't look for trouble; but when an old friend's son is bushwhacked and murdered, Buchanan thirsts for payback in Jonas Ward's Buchanan's Revenge.

This was a long-running western series, and I enjoy the early ones, by William Ard (who died after a half dozen or so), the best.  They are almost hard-boiled westerns, with rich characterizations and laconic storytelling.

I always grab these when I find them; this one at a used bookstore in New Castle, Indiana.  A good series for western readers.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

#40: The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun by Sébastien Japrisot

A secretary in an ad agency takes her boss's car for a joyride, on a whim; but as strange coincidences begin to pile up, and she tries to understand how a corpse got in the trunk, she wonders if she is going insane in Sebastian Japrisot's The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun.

Earlier in the year I read and enjoyed Japrisot's Trap for Cinderella, another Parisian thriller set in the swinging 60s, so when I saw this at a flea market for a shiny quarter I snatched it up.  I had never heard of Japrisot before this year, and now I find myself a fan.

Admittedly, both novels are similar in theme, and the latter doesn't hold together quite as tightly at the end; but is worth reading for those interested in psychological thrillers.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

#39: The Drop by Dennis Lehane

A mild-mannered bartender rescues a pit bull puppy from a trash can, the beginning of a chain of events that lead to a murderous showdown in Dennis Lehane's The Drop.

Lehane is a solid writer in his own right, writing along the spectrum from contemporary literature to mysteries and thrillers; so I was fascinated to see that he seemed to be doing a straight-up homage to Elmore Leonard's Detroit novels.  As I think that is some of Leonard's best work, I found a lot to enjoy here.

The Drop has an interesting publishing history that is worth googling, but for casual readers I would recommend this as a dark-humored, energetic thriller.

I borrowed this from the Morrisson-Reeves Public Library and read it quickly.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

#38: A Little Lumpen Novelita by Roberto Bolano

A young woman and her brother, orphaned and at loose ends in Rome, slowly turn to a life of crime in Roberto Bolano's A Little Lumpen Novelita.

I have wanted to check out Bolano for a while, and this slender novel was a good way to start.  I was also intrigued by the Roman setting, having been to Italy several times.  A nice touch was that the target of their criminal enterprise is a blind former muscleman who played the Italian sword and sandal hero Maciste in a series of 60s movies.

Rather straightforward in its plotting, but vivid in its writing, this was an interesting novel that should lead readers to more of Bolano's more well-known works.

I borrowed this from the Morrisson-Reeves Public Library in Richmond Indiana and read it quickly.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

#37: The Last Taxi Ride by A.X. Ahmad

An Indian taxi driver gets an unexpected fare when he picks up a fading Bollywood actress; and when she turns up dead the next day, the cab driver tries to solve the crime to prove his own innocence in A.X. Ahmad's The Last Taxi Ride.

Even though the reader might see the ending before our protagonist, the story hits all the right beats as well as being an interesting look at Indian culture, both in India as well as New York City, where the story largely takes place.

Along with some emotional baggage that plays out, our hero fortunately has a military background that helps him out of numerous scrapes involving unsympathetic police, remorseless gangsters, and backstabbing friends.

I borrowed this from the Morrisson-Reeves Public Library and enjoyed it quite a bit.  Recommended for those who would like a change of pace in their characters and situations.

Friday, November 21, 2014

#36: A Most Wanted Man by John le Carré

An activist lawyer, a washed-up banker, and a mysterious young man cross paths in Hamburg, and circumstances find the whole of the espionage world watching them, in John le Carre's A Most Wanted Man.

In my opinion, le Carre's forte was the Cold War of the 60s and 70s, and he has fished around a bit since then for subject matter with mixed results.  But A Most Wanted Man is a solid thriller set in the paranoid world of pop-up terrorism. 

Complex and satisfying, shown from multiple points of view, marred just slightly by an abrupt ending; overall a worthwhile contemporary le Carre.

I listened to this on audiobook on loan from Morrisson-Reeves Public Library in Richmond Indiana.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

#35: Last Winter, We Parted by Fuminori Nakamura

A journalist with a hidden agenda intends to write a book about why a popular photographer burned two women to death, but gets more than he bargained for in Last Winter, We Parted by Fuminori Nakamura.

This skin-crawling noir is written in an interesting, fragmentary style which includes pieces of the journalist's novel as well as other accounts of the story told from various angles.  But it is loaded with creepy characters, where every man has a secret fetish and every woman is an evil temptress.

Nakamura's novel The Thief, which I earlier read and enjoyed, also showed the sweating, seeping underbelly of Tokyo, but the author turns it up a notch in this one.  A greasy palette of tastes from sex dolls to S&M to implied incest is on display.

I checked this out from the Morrisson-Reeves Public Library and found it to be a good read, but for darker tastes.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

#34: Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle

A young man, his life transformed by an act of violence, lives out his life managing a play-by-mail adventure game in Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle.

Darnielle's novel reminds me a lot of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Fortress of Solitude, both novels also infused with a life listening to genre music, watching b-movies, reading comics, and playing Dungeons and Dragons.  And, like these other novels, the cultural touchpoints are veined with melancholy and sometimes tragedy.

Darnielle is the front man for a band called The Mountain Goats, of which I am not familiar; although this will probably get this book more attention, Darnielle's writing can stand on its own merits.

Recommended, for like-minded readers.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

#33: Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky

Alien ships touch down on Earth and depart without making contact, but leave a swath of the planet bizarrely transformed, and littered with unusual objects; now adventurers knows as Stalkers root through this strange zone at their own peril in the Strugatsky Brothers' Roadside Picnic.

This definitive Russian sci-fi novel was later made into the classic Soviet film Stalker by Andrei Tarkovsky, and both are rewarding in their own ways.  I was not as familiar with the Strugatsky Brothers as, say, Stanislaw Lem, and was glad a friend tipped me off to this novel.

Roadside Picnic is a very thought-provoking sci-fi outing for those who prefer more cerebral science fiction with no easy answers.

I bought this with an Amazon gift card from my birthday and read it quickly.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

#32: The Second Deadly Sin by Asa Larsson

A young boy is the sole survivor of what turns out to be a long, connected series of murders, and it's up to the dogged prosecutors and police (including one clever police dog) of the Uppsala law enforcement community to figure out what's going on in Asa Larsson's The Second Deadly Sin.

I am a big fan of Larsson's novels, set in rural Sweden and featuring lawyer Rebecka Martinsson, whose psyche is a little fragile after all that has transpired in her previous adventures.

Larsson writes rich, interesting characters, and depicts vibrant slices of life from her own homeland.  This sometimes stands in stark contrast to the violence and terror that bursts from the pages at unexpected intervals.

These are very solid mysteries, and recommended for those who want a change of venue in their stories.

I checked this out from the Morrisson-Reeves Public Library and read it quickly.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

#31: Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

A disturbed young man plows into a line of people waiting on a job fair, and a dogged detective never catches him before heading into retirement; but when the young man begins to intrude in the retiree's life, he gets a second chance in Stephen King's Mr. Mercedes.

King has been poking around in the mystery world lately, and I have been enjoying his new direction.  Unlike some of his other recent thriller attempts, like Joyland, this one contains no supernatural elements at all (perceived or real) and is probably closer styled to a summer blockbuster.

Although I thought some of the characterizations ran hot and cold, the story rockets on a relentless pace, with plenty of suspense and a nerve-racking conclusion that would play well on the big screen.

I think King's fans will enjoy this change of pace, as well as general mystery readers.

I listened to a very good audio book version on loan from the Morrisson-Reeves Public Library in Richmond, Indiana.

Friday, October 3, 2014

#30: Pietr the Latvian by Georges Simenon

Stalwart Inspector Maigret of the Paris police doggedly hunts Pietr the Latvian, a well-known villain with a knack for slipping out of the grasp of the law, in Georges Simenon's Pietr the Latvian.

This is the first Maigret novel, from 1930, now in re-release from Penguin Books.

Simenon wrote tons of these Maigret novels, and I had never dipped a toe into them until now, thinking this might be a good place to start.  It is a good solid mystery, with load of colorful details about life on the shabby side of the Parisian world, and was interesting enough for me to seek out another one.

I borrowed this from the Morrisson-Reeves Public Library and read it quickly.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

#29: Really the Blues by Joseph Koenig

A jazz musician flees New Orleans under mysterious circumstances, and makes the mistake of landing in Paris during the Nazi Occupation in Joseph Koenig's wartime thriller Really the Blues.

Koenig has been an elusive figure in publishing, having written several different kinds of novels before seemingly disappearing for almost twenty years, emerging in 2012 with a very good hard-boiled noir, False Negative, which first got me interested in the author.

Now there's Really the Blues, where our reluctant protagonist would prefer to keep playing his music, but the Resistance, in various forms, keeps crossing his path, with the Nazis dead on their heels.  This is a very solid, engaging thriller that will have appeal to all kinds of readers.

Pegasus Books sent me this out of the blue, and I was glad they did.  I read it quickly and passed it on to another mystery fan.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

#28: All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka

A lowly soldier is killed during a relentless alien invasion, on only his first day of combat; but somehow is forced to relive that day over and over until he gets better (with the help of a solider called "Full Metal Bitch") or keeps dying in Hiroshi Sakurazaka's All You Need is Kill.

This sci-fi novel is a whacked-out combo of Groundhog Day, Starship Troopers, and a dozen Japanese anime series, written in a terse, kinetic style that makes this a quick read.  The author is obviously a loving fan of all of the above and then some and doesn't take anything too seriously.

This novel later became the Tom Cruise movie Edge of Tomorrow, a much more vanilla version of the original novel.

I found this at a WalMart while waiting for a tire change and read half of it in one swoop.  A change of pace for sci-fi fans.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

#27: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

A man returns to his childhood home, and suddenly begins to remember an amazing adventure he had with three magical women that lived next door in Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

After writing the definitive comic book series The Sandman Gaiman has become a popular fantasy writer in his own right.  This one definitely harkens back to childhood tales, to me especially influenced by A Wrinkle in Time.  I think it could be enjoyed by young adults, if certain scenes go over their heads.

But it is great for adults, especially those nostalgic for those stories, now infused with adult melancholy and regret.  There are equal measures of terror and whimsy that make it an interesting read.

I listened to this on audiobook, read by the author, an especially rewarding way to enjoy this book.  Recommended.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

#26: The Son by Jo Nesbo

The son of a rogue cop ends up in prison, strung out on heroin supplied through a mysterious source; but when he figures out his dad might have been framed, the machinery of revenge (beginning with a prison breakout) begins to run in Jo Nesbo's superior crime novel The Son.

For those in a post-Dragon Tattoo malaise,  I can't recommend anyone more than Jo Nesbo.  His Harry Hole novels, about a flawed police detective in Oslo, are all top-flight thrillers accessible to audiences foreign and domestic.

This is a stand-alone story but the equal of his other work, told at a breakneck pace and featuring nothing but flawed characters, on both sides of the law, throughout.

I got this from the Morrisson-Reeves Public Library and read it quickly.  Recommended for thriller fans.

Monday, August 4, 2014

#25: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

A series of child murders strike a small town, and a troubled reporter--who fled the town years ago--returns to cover the story, and pick at old family wounds, in Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects.

With the runaway success of Gone Girl, Flynn's earlier novels are getting another look.  Although this shares some thematic similarities--unreliable journalism, small-town secrets, returning to a place you never wanted to see again, and so on--Sharp Objects is a much more gothic-flavored story, right down to the creepy old mansion and the weird siblings.

The storytelling is much more straightforward (whereas Gone Girl double-backed and triple-backed on itself) but is just about as unsettling as more truths about the reporter's childhood come to light, and how that childhood could be connected to what is happening now is revealed.

I listened to a good audiobook version on loan from the Morrisson-Reeves Public Library in Richmond, Indiana and am eager to seek out the rest of Flynn's writing.

Friday, July 25, 2014

#24: World of Trouble by Ben H. Winters

As a meteor closes in on Earth, intent on bringing humanity to its end, a former policeman and quasi-private eye searches the pre-Apocalypse for his missing sister in World of Trouble, the third chapter of The Last Policeman trilogy by Ben H. Winters.

This is a great genre-bending series of novels, with satisfying mysteries threaded into a generally downbeat end-of-world scenario.  Overall this is a good series for fans of both apocalyptic stories as well as private eye tales, although this one relies pretty heavily on readers having completed the first two novels. 

Winters is handy with reference points from both sci-fi and mystery genres; sort of a Philip Marlowe, as protagonist in On the Beach.

Although the optimistic, such as myself, sees a narrow window for a fourth book--and I do mean a narrow window--this seems to be the end of a good storyline.  I am eager to see where Winters goes next with his writing.

I pre-ordered this on Amazon and read it quickly, eager to share with like-minded friends.

Friday, July 18, 2014

#23: Blaze of Glory by Ben Bridges

On his last day in office, an aging sheriff ends up with a handful of trouble in Ben Bridges' Blaze of Glory.  Soon there are old scores to settle as well, even as the townspeople believe their town has become too sleepy for a full-time sheriff.

I enjoy Bridges' writing as part of the "Piccadilly Cowboys," a group of British writers who write American-style westerns.  I have read several of Bridges' novels and have found them all to be sturdy, enjoyable outings.

His Piccadilly Publishing line of both classic reprints and contemporary writing is worthwhile to Western fans.

I got this cheaply for my beloved Kindle and read it quickly.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

#22: Actors Anonymous by James Franco

A collection of maybe-autobiographical, semi-autobiographical, and probably-fictional short stories from actor/director James Franco has slices of L.A. life as well as insights into the world of acting, with various results.

I listened to this read by the author on audio book, and I would recommend that format if someone was interested in reading this as I believe it added value.  Still, the reader's mileage will vary, depending on your interest in Franco and his life.

Some of his writing and storytelling is quite interesting, but to me, some of it had the whiff of an insulated millionaire celebrity who an editor should have said no to sometimes.

Still worth reading for those interested in celebrity life.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

#21: The Judah Lion Contract by Philip Atlee

Joe Gall, the Nullifier, swings into action to rescue an African dictator with hedonistic tastes from his own demise in Philip Atlee's The Judah Lion Contract.

Atlee's Joe Gall series, from the 60s and 70s, come from a less politically correct time, but are often enjoyable if you understand those parameters.  This one is a bit of a boozy romp as Gall and his wayward charge have to flee the dictator's overthrow and head across Africa, various factions at their heels.

An interesting counterpoint to Fleming and Aarons if looked at from the proper perspective, and enjoyable for those who like 60s spy stories.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

#20: Wyoming Manhunt by Allan Vaughan Ellston

A sheriff and his able deputy hunt a killer hiding under another name in Allan Vaughan Ellston's Wyoming Manhunt.

Sturdy Western reads a bit more like a mystery with old west overtones, a surprise when I picked this up for less than a dollar to take it on a camping trip, almost sight unseen.

Ellston weaves a lot of threads, from multiple storylines and viewpoints, to the expected conclusion of a furious gunfight at a ranch headquarters.  Nicely done throughout.

I read this in a single day and would recommend it to casual Western readers.

Monday, June 23, 2014

#19: Ambush Basin by Gordo Roberts

The death of a ranch patriarch, from a bullet in the back, sets off a range war in Gordo Roberts' Ambush Basin.

I had never heard of Gordo Roberts, but picked this up for pocket change to read on a camping trip, and I finished it in a single day.

This is a burly, above-average oater, with a lot of familiar characters (a laconic ranch hand, the rancher's daughter, snake-eyed villains) helped along by an action-packed script and colorful descriptions of the land and times.

Good for fans of Westerns.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

#18: Chinatown Assassin by J.R. Roberts

The wandering gunslinger called The Gunsmith sees a murder in San Francisco that reminds him of a vicious killing he saw in Dodge City years before; and soon others are making The Gunsmith part of that connection in J.R. Roberts' Chinatown Assassin.

This is part of a long, long series of "Adult Westerns" written by Robert J. Randisi, number 180 out of hundreds more.  I nabbed this, with a few others, from a rummage sale because I have always been interested in Randisi's writing under his own name.

However, I believe these have come out monthly, for years, so you sort of get what you expect; a standard western, with some R-rated scenes mixed in.  I did, however, like this more than the first one I read, several hundred down the line from this.

I read this in a single day on a camping trip, and would recommend it for those settings.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

#17: Mapuche by Caryl Ferey

In Argentina, a private eye and an artist (the Mapuche of the title, an indigenous person of Argentina) begin to look into the murder of a transvestite prostitute, but quickly find themselves immersed in the dark history of Argentinian politics in Caryl Ferey's grisly thriller from the World Noir line.

Mapuche is a rocketing thriller, with additional intrigue for anyone interested in the history and politics of Argentina and South America, or in political thrillers in general.  I found out to be a good read and a window into a culture I was not familiar with. 

However, Mapuche comes with a warning for readers with a gentle constitution; there is a lot of gruesome torture, murder, and rape throughout, and thus can only be recommended to more mature readers.  Worthwhile to those of a receptive mindset.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

#16: The Master of Knots by Massimo Carlotto

The Alligator, an Italian sort-of criminal turned sort-of detective, and his knockaround pals try to help a client who is  involved in murderous games with an S&M group in Massimo Carlotto's The Master of Knots.

The author has had a colorful life of his own, and some of it has obviously seeped into his writing.  In this, the second novel I have read in this series, he and his old-school pals find themselves shocked at the world they uncover, including the sinister criminal of the title.  The reader too may be shocked by some of the plot developments, not for all tastes.

But center to the story is the relationships between the three detective friends.  My favorite character is Rossini, an aging, genteel strongarm with his own curious code of honor.  I could very easily see Rossini based on the Italian actor Marcello Mastroianni (as seen in Big Deal on Madonna Street).  Their scenes are veined with humor.

Carlotto's world is full of dishonorable lawyers, crooked cops, and gangsters with hearts of gold.  I enjoy visiting this world, through the World Noir line.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

#15: Total Chaos by Jean-Claude Izzo

Three guy friends, and the girl they all love, grow up poor in Marseilles; one guy becomes an average cop, and the other two guys become average criminals.  But when murder tears the group apart, the average cop becomes an avenging angel in Jean-Claude Izzo's Total Chaos.

The World Noir line of novels has largely focused on what is called "Mediterranean Noir," and the father of this movement is often pointed out to be Jean-Claude Izzo, so after enjoying several of these novels I sought him out myself.

Izzo's Total Chaos is an exceptional noir, and not only a good representative of the genre but a great novel in its own right.  It is dark and fatalistic, but also darkly humorous and crackling with energy.  Izzo tries to make Marseilles a character the way others have tried to make L.A. or New York characters in their own detective novels, and it adds to the flavor.

I highly recommend Total Chaos and think I can argue it as one of the best noirs of the second half of the twentieth century.

Friday, May 16, 2014

#14: Doctor Who: A History by Alan Kistler

I used to read Terrance Dicks Doctor Who paperbacks in the 70s without ever having seen the program, yet still enjoyed them; so I was pleased to find out, when I moved to Wisconsin in the late 80s, that Doctor Who was shown on PBS Sunday afternoons. 

The first I saw of the series was Tom Baker and The Keys of Time storyline, which was an awful good place to start.  I have been a fan ever since.

That made me eager to read Doctor Who: A History by Alan Kistler, a guy who is a bigger fan of Doctor Who than me.  This nonfiction account of the first 50 years of the program has a lot of interesting stories and sidebars for the more serious fans of the program, but is a good primer for new viewers.

I listened to this on audiobook, read by the author, and enjoyed it immensely.  Recommended for fans of the current and classic programs.

Monday, May 5, 2014

#13: The Magician by J.R. Roberts

Clint Adams, an Old West gunslinger called the Gunsmith, mixes it up with a traveling circus under the thrall of a mysterious magician in The Magician by J.R. Roberts.

The Gunsmith is a very long-running series of "Adult Westerns" written by J.R. Roberts, the pseudonym of author Robert J. Randisi, an author whose work I enjoy. 

I believe Randisi has written one of these a month for several decades, and this one is somewhere around 150-something, so you sort of know what you're getting if you've read many of these.  It's a standard enough western with some mild sex scenes mixed in, overall just an okay affair.

I found a few of these at a flea market and thought I would try one and read it very quickly.  Your mileage may vary.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

#12: Trap for Cinderella by Sebastien Japrisot

Two French girls, one wild and outgoing and one a follower, are caught up in a house fire, with one survivor; but which one, and why? 

Mix in a mysterious nanny and some creepy boyfriends and Trap for Cinderella is a solid French noir with an ending that isn't fully revealed until the final sentences.

I had heard of this classic noir of the early 1960s but had never seen a copy until I found one while wandering along the South Bank in London a few summers ago.  I had this one salted away for a rainy day and was sorry I waited so long.

The author, Sébastien Japrisot, is apparently well-known in France but not known as much here.  I will definitely look for more from his bibliography.

Monday, April 14, 2014

#11: The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

Two teens in a support group for kids with terminal cancer start a relationship with a certain end in John Green's The Fault In Our Stars.

I was interested in this novel because of the buzz surrounding it as well as that it takes place in Indianapolis, where the author lives.  I also enjoyed an earlier young adult novel of Green's, Will Grayson Will Grayson.

Definitely produces sniffles, but also has some funny moments, and interesting characters.  A trip to the home of Anne Frank is curious, but of interest.  Really for teens and above, as there is enough sophistication to keep older readers interested but too much for young readers.

I listened to a very good audiobook reading by Kate Rudd, that I checked out from the Morrisson-Reeves Public Library in Richmond, Indiana.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

#10: Summertime, All The Cats Are Bored by Philippe Georget

A cop, out of steam in his career and in his marriage, finds himself galvanized to find an abducted tourist as the disturbed kidnapper continues a cat-and-mouse game in Philippe Georget's Summertime, All The Cats Are Bored.

Georget's first novel comes from the World Noir line, quickly becoming one of my favorite imprints with (mostly) hardboiled noir from around the world.

This novel takes place in the French Mediterranean town of Perpignan, and in addition to a solid mystery interested me in someday visiting this area.

For mystery readers looking for a change of pace, this novel has a decidedly European flavor, both in its dealings with police life as well as marriage.

I continue to be very satisfied with the World Noir line and will also look for Georget's next book.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

#9: Black Skies by Arnaldur Indridason

Dogged but unremarkable Icelandic cop Sigurdur Óli reluctantly tries to help a friend being blackmailed with explicit photos, but quickly gets involved in a complex, murderous scheme in Arnaldur Indridason's Black Skies.

 I am a huge fan of Indridason's police procedurals featuring flawed but insightful detective Erlendur (the first translated into English was Jar City) but this novel features a supporting character from the earlier novels, one of Erlendur's colleagues.  It is a change of pace in tone (including some lighter subplots), but still features much of Indridason's very solid storytelling.

I am always on the lookout for more of Indridason's writing.  This one I checked out from the Morrisson-Reeves Public Library in Richmond, Indiana and read quickly.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

#8: Alley Girl by Jonathan Craig

A crooked cop interviews a murder suspect's wife, and finding her attractive, carefully begins to frame the husband for murder.  Meanwhile, his younger, less experienced partner begins to get suspicious in Jonathan Craig's hardboiled noir Alley Girl.

This, to me, was a very tough read for the 1950s, with plenty of sordid plotting and a fairly explicit conclusion.  The identity of the "alley girl" of the title is a surprise as well.

I didn't know anything about Jonathan Craig before seeing this for my beloved Kindle for the goodbye price of 99 cents. I will definitely look for more of his work.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

#7: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

A young woman goes missing on her fifth wedding anniversary, naturally putting the husband in the police's sights; but nothing is what it seems in Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl.

Despite the contemporary trappings, this tale, told in both spouse's points of view in alternating chapters, is a classic example of a favorite subgenre in noir, the unreliable narrator.  The reader will be kept guessing through one surprising revelation after the next.

Gone Girl is a quick read, but is a notch above the average thriller with clever, sophisticated plotting and characterization and solid writing overall.

Not surprisingly, Gone Girl is about to be what I suspect will be a popular movie.  Recommended for thriller fans and beach readers.

My enjoyment of the novel was lifted more so, I suspect, by a very good audio book version that I borrowed from Morrisson-Reeves Public Library in Richmond, Indiana.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

#6: The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly

The Lincoln Lawyer returns when a pimp, accused of murdering one of his prostitutes, seeks out Mickey Haller on the advice of the dead prostitute herself in The Gods of Guilt.

Michael Connelly has built an admirable legal thriller series alongside his touchstone police series starring LA cop Harry Bosch (threaded with the legal series as the two are half-brothers).  This second series has garnered more attention perhaps since the movie starring  Matthew McConaughey (referenced in the books as well).

This is a good entry in the series as Haller finds he has additional impetus to solve the prostitute's murder, feeling somewhat responsible because of events going back a number of years.  Some nice surprises throughout make it a solid read.

I checked this out from the Farmland Public Library and read it quickly.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

#5: Tatiana by Martin Cruz Smith

Russian cop Arkady Renko is back, looking into the death of a crusading journalist, in Martin Cruz Smith's Tatiana.

This is a great police procedural series that has been delivering the goods since Renko's first adventure, Gorky Park, in 1981 (and I think I have been reading him since then).  Martin Cruz Smith has charted the rises and falls of Russian life during what has turned out to be a tumultuous time in their history.

But ultimately it is the honorable, philosophical, flawed hero Arkady Renko that buoys the novels, and fans of the series, or tarnished cops in general, will enjoy this latest outing.

I'm not sure Martin Cruz Smith's novels are getting the attention they once did (since the Gorky Park film adaptation), but this is a very solid novel the equal of previous in this series.

I picked this up from the Morrisson-Reeves Public Library in Richmond, Indiana and read it quickly.

Monday, February 17, 2014

#4: Operation Breakthrough by Dan J. Marlowe

Drake, the Man with Nobody's Face, is doing a covert bank job for the the government; unfortunately, the job ends up botched and with his partner in the hands of an unfriendly nation, leaving Drake to fly solo to the rescue in Operation Breakthrough.

Dan J. Marlowe wrote a series of these undemanding spy novels in his latter years.  I am a bit more partial to his earlier Johnny Killain series of private eye novels, but as Marlowe had a colorful writing and personal life I feel like I should dip deeper into the well before drawing conclusions.

I would not place Drake in the same category as two of my favorite contemporaries, Joe "the Nullifier" Gall or Sam Durell, but would put him above a lot of the generic spy fare of the era.  That being said, your mileage may vary.

I bought a big stack of these from a used bookstore in Muncie, Indiana, and read this one quickly.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

#3: Lynch Law Canyon by Frank Wynne

A gang of owlhoots hold sway over a remote town, until a reluctant gunfighter is pushed too far in Lynch Law Canyon by Frank Wynne.

This western is actually written by Brian Garfield, perhaps best known as the author of Death Wish, and is a very tough, very satisfying oater.  It is on half of an Ace Double (the other side is Stampede at Faraway Pass) which might make it easier to dismiss.  But it is worth seeking out if you are a fan of Elmore Leonard's westerns in the same vein.

Ace Doubles are always a treat, and often a rare one as well.  I found this one at a yard sale and kept it for a snowy day. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

#2: VJ: The Unplugged Adventures of MTV's First Wave by Alan Hunter, Mark Goodman, Martha Quinn, Nina Blackwood, Gavin Edwards

As somebody who stayed up with their mom and little brother to watch MTV on its very first day, I was very interested in The Unplugged Adventures of MTV's First Wave, an oral history of the early days of the video music station, as told by its five founding DJs.

That there was a lot of craziness and excess was not surprising (though I thought Mark Goodman and Alan Hunter were more frank than Martha Quinn and Nina Blackwood), but learning how MTV found its way in its early years was enjoyable to someone who was watching it unfold.

Although JJ Jackson has since passed, his story is also included, along with many other amusing anecdotes, especially Live Aid, and the fate of the Pink House in the John Mellencamp promotion.

I checked this out from the Morrisson-Reeves Public Library in Richmond, Indiana, and read it quickly.  Enjoyable for people my age who grew up with MTV.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

#1: Assignment Karachi by Edward S. Aarons

U.S. super-spy Sam Durrell is off  to Pakistan to tangle with various villains in Assignment Karachi, part of the long and enjoyable spy series by Edward S. Aarons.

This entry, from 1962, is of note for the presentation of a very different Middle East than we see today, with a totally different political and cultural landscape.

Otherwise I found it to be a serviceable entry in the series (I have yet to find one that truly lays an egg, and I've read a lot of these). A slam-bang ending in the high mountains against various forces is a high point.

Readers can jump in anywhere in this solid and underrated spy series, and they are worth a look.  I have a big stack of these I got from ebay a long while back that I have chewed through at my leisure.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

2013 In Review

For the first time in many years, I didn't make it to 50 books.  But that's okay.  If it wasn't for the intervention of my brand-new grandson, the first baby born at Cincinnati Mercy Hospital on New Years' Day 2014, I might just have made it.  All in all a good reason not to have made it to 50.  2014 is a new start.

Here's what I liked best this year:

NIGHT FILM by Marisha Pessl I have been recommending to everybody.

THE THIEF by Fuminori Nakamuro has stayed with me.

SWEET TOOTH by Ian McEwan, a literary author working in the spy genre.

I'M NOT SCARED by Nicolo Ammaniti is a top-notch thriller (and the movie version is good too).

THE QUANTUM THIEF by Hannu Rajaniemi is very dense and cerebral sci-fi, but rewarding.

THE CUCKOO'S CALLING by Robert Galbraith is a good mystery even if it wasn't written by J.K. Rowling.

11/22/63 by Stephen King is a good one for King fans and general readers.

COUNTDOWN CITY by Ben H. Winters is an unusual genre-bender.

FALSE NEGATIVE by Joseph Koenig is a very tough noir.

X FILMS by Alex Cox goes on my shelf as inspiration as a screenwriter, and is of interest to anyone who likes independent film.