Monday, May 25, 2020

#25: Defending Jacob by William Landay

A prosecutor is assigned the murder of a teenager in an affluent suburb, and quickly realizes his own son is the prime suspect, in William Landay's Defending Jacob.

The prosecutor is dismissed from the case but starts his own investigation, focusing on a child predator who lives nearby, blurring the lines of law and order as evidence mounts against his son.  

Some breakneck turns in the narrative in the last third of the book dish up plenty of surprises, all the way to a nebulous but surprising and satisfying conclusion.

This book reminds me of early Scott Turow and John Grisham but also compares pretty strikingly to Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk about Kevin.  

Defending Jacob came recommended, and was on my radar as there is a television miniseries version just out, so I grabbed this from Amazon and read it quickly.  

Recommended for those readers looking for one of those brick-sized legal thriller beach reads.  

Sunday, May 24, 2020

#24: Last Rider from Lonesome Canyon by James Farnsworth

A pair of brothers, one an outlaw and one a cowhand, square off as the military heats up a campaign against a band of Kiowa in James Farnsworth's Last Rider from Lonesome Canyon.

This is a standard western with curiously overheated elements, including almost supernatural animals, a giant snake among them, and almost superhuman feats of action, including shooting knives out of hands.  A deformed outlaw with lightning-fast knife skills has almost a James Bond villain quality.

Poor editing and odd chapter breaks add to the curiosity of the narrative.  But there was enough going on that I kept reading, and Farnsworth wrote a number of westerns, although I can't find much else about him.

I got this in a pickup of a stash of westerns and read it quickly.

Monday, May 11, 2020

#23: I Called Him Necktie by Milena Michiko Flasar

A young shut-in trying to re-enter the world, and a salaryman who can't tell his wife he lost his job, have a chance meeting in a park that changes the young man's life in Milena Michiko Flasar's I Called Him Necktie.

This is a slender, lyrically-written novel with a deep dive into Japanese culture.  We see how the young man--called a hikikomori--is driven to being a hermit-like figure by his outsider status, and how the older man's marriage and career left him where he was as well.

Melancholy throughout, but an upbeat ending helps.  Worthwhile for anyone wanting to read a well-written story from another culture.

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

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

#22: No Law Against Angels by Carter Brown

Al Wheeler is an unorthodox California cop working on a series of call-girl murders in Carter Brown's No Law Against Angels.

Carter Brown, actually an Australian writer named Alan Yates, wrote hundreds and hundreds of crime novels, and it seemed like in my teen years I couldn't go into a used book store and not see them stacked up everywhere.  I had never read one, but when my old favorite Stark House Press started reprinting them, I thought I would give one a go.

Despite the very hard-boiled title, this is a rather breezy, jokey novel in which Wheeler only gives the faintest hints of being a real policeman or having to follow any rules.  A "ditzy dame" sidekick provides even more comic relief.  In fact, there is so much comic relief, one keeps forgetting this short novel is really about a bunch of murdered prostitutes (and a handful of others for good measure).

Definitely a product of its 50s origin, but enjoyable on its merits, and now that I know about Carter Brown I would pick up another when I wanted an extremely light, quick read.

Monday, May 4, 2020

#21: Reckoning in Fire Valley by Clay Ringold

A young man inherits a ranch from a long-lost uncle, only to find when he goes to claim it that it is overrun with owlhoots, in Clay Ringold's Reckoning in Fire Valley.

In short order our hero is framed up for the murder of another cowpuncher, and has to get out of that as well as track down a band of rustlers, as well as squeeze in a little mild frontier romance.

I learned Ringold was actually Ray Hogan, a steady western author I enjoyed as a teen, when I read Westerns a bit more sporadically.  So I was not surprised this one was entirely serviceable, no matter which name he used.  Suffers a bit from some of the speedy denouements found in these Ace Doubles (Scorpion Showdown by the equally steady Tom West is on the other side), but it was a fast enjoyable read.

I grabbed this from a used bookstore a while back and was in the mood to read it quickly.