Friday, June 30, 2017

#53: The Persian Cat by John Flagg

A cynical former spy, rattling around after World War II, helps an old friend (and former French resistance fighter) track down a woman who supposedly aided the Nazis.  Pretty soon, he begins to question the motives of the woman, his friend, himself, and everyone around him, in John Flagg's The Persian Cat.

The Persian Cat is an extremely hard-boiled spy novel that reads much like a private eye outing.  There is plenty of tough talk and rough action.  The setting, a Tehran completely different than the one we know today, adds a lot of interest, as does a full and colorful collection of supporting characters.
Flagg's book is part of the Black Gat line through Stark House Press, which puts out an admirable line of forgotten noirs and other similar titles. Flagg, actually John Gearon, wrote a string of these for Gold Medal in the 40s and 50s, though this is the first time I had encountered him.

I bought this from Stark House Press and read it quickly.  Recommended for fans of the spy genre and hard-boiled fiction.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

#52: The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Slightly burned-out Copenhagen cop Carl Morck now heads up Cold Cases in a dank basement, and--because of his meticulous assistant Assad and insouciant secretary Rose--reluctantly solves the case of murdered teen siblings in The Absent One.

The Absent One is the second in Jussi Adler-Olsen's highly regarded Department Q series, which has also spawned a trilogy of hit movies in his native Denmark.

This novel follows the pattern of its predecessor, The Keep of Lost Causes, with almost comedic scenes in the office contrasting with crime elements that include rape, torture, animal abuse, and more.  It can at times be somewhat jarring, with strong subject matter for the casual reader.

But Adler-Olsen is a great mystery writer, and The Absent One is recommended for discriminating readers.

I checked this out on audiobook from the New Castle-Henry County Public Library.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

#51: Cruel is the Night by Karo Hamalainen

Two Finnish couples, made up of old friends, spend an evening having dinner in a luxurious London apartment--only to have it end with one left alive--in Karo Hamalainen's Cruel is the Night.

Cruel is the Night is an inky-black comedy of manners centered around a dinner party where every attendee brings something hidden to the table, be it infidelity or fraud or other vices, as well as a lifetime of resentments.  Unfortunately, an ornamental sword and a variety of poisons end up too readily at hand.

Hamalainen's novel ranges from riotously funny, to frightening and shocking, taking the reader on quite a ride; an Agatha Christie novel as told by Brett Easton Ellis.

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

Saturday, June 17, 2017

#50: Tender Wings of Desire by Catherine Kovach

An independent young woman decides to slip from a dull engagement and forge her own path, quickly learning that path leads into the arms of a rugged sailor, in Tender Wings of Desire by Catherine Kovach (writing as, of all people, Colonel Sanders).

Tender Wings of Desire was offered as a free Kindle download as part of a Kentucky Fried Chicken promotion. It was very interesting to me, because of the thought that a fast food franchise believed that somebody might want to read a book, instead of play a game or mess around on an app.  And they were right, which is really something to meditate on.

The second surprise is that the novella is pretty straight-faced, and hits all the right beats for fans of the romance genre.  The setting is sort of quasi-Austen, and the characters hit comfortable notes.  Despite the trappings, Kovach took her job seriously, and delivered for fans.

Tender Wings of Desire is a quick, accessible read and worthwhile, especially for readers of the genre.

Monday, June 12, 2017

#49: The Doomsday Affair by Harry Whittington

The swingin' men from U.N.C.L.E. go after the typical nut with a nuclear weapon in Harry Whittington's The Doomsday Affair, based on the 60s TV series The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

I discovered Harry Whittington earlier this year, an industrious pulp paperback novelist who cranked out noirs, westerns, and more under a number of names over a number of years.  I have become a fan, and thus couldn't pass this up at a goodbye price in a heaping box of paperbacks at the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention.

I remember watching The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as a teen (never as popular in my house as Mission: Impossible or The Wild, Wild West) but still a fun slice of spy adventure. 

Whittington's novel seems much more muscular and serious than I remember the series (after an exploding lei at the outset) with car chases, fistfights, nerve gas attacks, and a last-ditch effort to prevent a nuke from launching. 

Quick and fun, and doesn't really rely much on remembering the series.  For Whittington completists, which I seem to be becoming.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

#48: The Burning Room by Michael Connelly

L.A. cop Harry Bosch is looking retirement square in the eye, but wants to close out a few cold cases first in Michael Connelly's The Burning Room.

In my mind, Connelly's Bosch series stands alongside Walter Moseley's Easy Rawlins and Jo Nesbo's Harry Hole series as among the great contemporary police procedurals. 

In this outing, Bosch and a new partner investigate what at first appears to be random violence from a stray bullet, but might actually be tied to the rise of a political figure; and work on a more personal case involving a fire at an unlicensed daycare.

Connelly's tight writing (his background is journalism) and crisp plotting always makes for a fast, enjoyable read, with the richness of the series and its characters evident to longtime readers.

I listened to a nice audiobook version read by Titus Welliver, on loan from the New Castle-Henry County Public Library.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

#47: Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama

A police detective is assigned to media relations, though secretly wishes to return to crime-busting; but when an unsolved kidnapping comes back to the forefront, he may get his wish in Hideo Yokoyama's Six Four.

Six Four is a big undertaking, over 600 pages long, much of which dealing with the psychological, social, and political underpinnings of work in the Tokyo police force.  The crime elements don't really ramp up until the last quarter of the book, as the detective tries to balance new clues in the kidnapping with his own daughter's disappearance.

For those readers up to the challenge, Yokoyama's work is very rewarding, and really drills into Japanese culture as well as the machinery of contemporary police work.  Recommended.

I checked this out from the Morrisson-Reeves Public Library in Richmond, Indiana, and ended up checking it out several times to finish it off.