Friday, April 28, 2017

#38: Catalina Eddy by Daniel Pyne

Daniel Pyne's Catalina Eddy deftly threads together three crime novellas, representing different styles and time periods.

In "The Big Empty," set in the 50s, a former spy turned L.A. private eye hunts the killer of his estranged wife; in "Losertown," a San Diego prosecutor in the 80s tries to catch a drug lord while fighting uphill against politics; and in "Portugese Bend," a contemporary thriller, a paralyzed cop and a crime scene photog unmask a police cover-up.

For fans of California-style noir, this is a pretty cool idea and a good read.  The stories are connected by various threads, with children in one story being (often troubled) adults in a second, and the fates of characters in earlier stories sometimes casually revealed. 

Although the politics are often painted in broad strokes, the storytelling remains interesting throughout.

I checked this out from the New Castle-Henry County Public Library in New Castle, Indiana.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

#37: All the Old Knives by Olen Steinhauer

Former lovers, one also a former spy but the other a current one, discuss a long-ago terror attack over dinner--all the while peeling back their failed relationship--in Olen Steinhauer's meditative spy novel All the Old Knives.

Steinhauer borrows heavily from the old school of LeCarre and Deighton, focusing as much on the tangled personal webs as the treacherous professional ones, as both people reveal their own thoughts about a possible traitor in their midst.

Nicely done, in alternating chapters from dual viewpoints, and satisfying spy elements alongside a more philosophical bent.

This one benefited from a really nice audiobook reading from two narrators, Ari Fliakos and Juliana Francis Kelly.  I borrowed it from the Morrisson-Reeves Library in Richmond, Indiana.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

#36: McAllister and the Spanish Gold by Matt Chisholm

McAllister is a gun hand with some crooked law on his tail, so he teams up with a disparate group to chase a legendary gold cache in Matt Chisholm's McAllister and the Spanish Gold.

McAllister featured in a long-running series of oaters, and I was a little disappointed that this one wasn't narrated by Matt Chisholm himself (actually author Peter Watts) as was the last one I read, but it was still written in the same humorous, conversational style.

The focus is on high adventure as McAllister is hired to protect the group from hostile Indians and bandits, but as they are all ready to double and triple cross each other, McAllister ends up with his hands full.

Enjoyable western action, and I plan on looking for more of Matt Chisholm.  This particular one I got from a lot of vintage western paperbacks on eBay.

Friday, April 21, 2017

#35: Police by Jo Nesbo

The intrepid cops of Oslo law enforcement pull out all the stops when a cop killer starts on a shocking spree in Jo Nesbo's Police.

Police is the latest in the Harry Hole crime series, even though the fate of Harry Hole--the troubled detective who seemed to be slightly to mostly dead-ish at the end of the last novel--isn't revealed until a chunk of this one is underway.

The spotlight turns on Hole's established supporting cast, and when one of those falls victim to the killer, Hole has no choice but to put himself back into play.

Nesbo's great crime series gets a fast-paced entry, which helps smooth over the grisly parts for the casual reader.  Another downbeat ending, where the reader is once again reminded that good never quite triumphs over evil, provides a dour Scandinavian coda.

But Nesbo's thrillers are top flight in any language.  I listened to a good audiobook reading on loan from the New Castle-Henry County Public Library in New Castle, Indiana.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

#34: Coyote Courage by Scott Harris

A drifting gunman, with a horse called Horse and a wolf called Wolf for companions, stops in a small town under siege and ends up making a stand in Coyote Courage by Scott Harris.

Our easygoing protagonist--who nonetheless is sharp with a gun--reluctantly, and then with gradual acceptance, falls into a circle of people that includes a pretty young woman and her grieving father, a lonely young boy, and several other townspeople, taking their side against a group of toughs running roughshod over their lives.  Hits the expected beats, but holds out a few surprises.

Nicely done contemporary western reminds me most of the writing of Loren Estleman and Elmer Kelton, and would be enjoyed by fans of those authors.

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

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

#33: Seven Westbound by Marshall Grover

Big Jim is looking for the man that gunned down his kid brother, but in the meantime helps guard a stagecoach carrying a dangerous outlaw, in Marshall Grover's Seven Westbound.

Seven Westbound is a tight little western, with colorful characters, including a bandit leader who always wears a mask (whose identity is, naturally, revealed in a surprise ending).  Plenty of action ensues when the outlaw's gang uses every means at hand to try and spring him.

Marshall Grover was actually Leonard Meares, and was also Marshall McCoy, which is what name the books were released under in the U.S.  To add to the confusion, Big Jim was called Nevada Jim in the U.S.  Either way, Meares knocked out hundreds of novels featuring Big Jim and other characters.

I first learned about Meares through Piccadilly Publishing, which has been bringing these back via Kindle.  This one, and several others, came out of  an ebay lot of vintage westerns.  Definitely on the prowl for more of these.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

#32: Trigger Mortis by Anthony Horowitz

James Bond swings into action when a diabolical plot to sabotage the Space Race is revealed in Trigger Mortis, a new James Bond novel set in the late 1950s, during the time of the original Ian Fleming series.

The recent James Bond novels have ranged from excellent (Sebastian Faulks' Devil May Care) to just okay (Jeffrey Deaver's Carte Blanche), but Horowitz's entry is pretty good.  It has all the requisite elements, including a memorable Formula One car race against a Soviet driver, and a climactic motorcycle vs subway train chase, plus colorful villains and supporting characters.

Interestingly, Trigger Mortis snugs in just a few weeks after the events in the novel Goldfinger, and includes "Bond Girl" Pussy Galore from that story.

Fans of Fleming's original Bond novels will find a lot to enjoy here.

I checked this out from the New Castle-Henry County Public Library on audiobook.  The audiobook version got some attention when it was announced that actor David Oyelowo was the reader, making him the first African-American to portray James Bond--and he does a great job with the reading.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

#31: The Name of the Game is a Kidnapping by Keigo Higashino

An ad man's marketing idea is turned down by a demanding auto exec, leading him into a complicated revenge plan featuring the daughter of the exec's mistress, in Keigo Higashino's The Name of the Game is a Kidnapping.

The ad man and the daughter cobble together a fake kidnapping plot to extort money from the exec, but naturally nothing goes quite as planned. 

Highashino presents the storytelling in sort of a breezy caper style, but the three main characters are all pretty amoral, leading to double and triple crosses and a surprisingly downbeat ending.  Of added value is a glimpse into Japanese culture, for those interested.

A solid crime read in an international setting, for fans.

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