Sunday, February 28, 2021

#14: Night in Tehran by Philip Kaplan

A diplomat in late 70s Iran navigates the end of the Shah and the rise of the Ayatollah in Philip Kaplan's Night in Tehran.

Kaplan is a former ambassador writing his first fiction, though it is heavily populated with real figures and situations.  He writes more of a political chess game than an espionage novel (there is only one solitary karate chop, delivered late in the narrative).  But it reads like a World War II spy novel, and even has a mysterious French journalist/spy love interest.

Kaplan's narrative is stone sober and moves at a funeral pace until the last one hundred pages or so, which have the mounting terror of a slow-motion car crash.  Readers with an interest in this time and its politics will be engaged here.

Kaplan's debut belongs in the same family as the writing of Alan Furst and John LeCarre and is a worthwhile addition to genre.

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

Saturday, February 27, 2021

#13: Walk Tall, Ride Tall by Burt and Budd Arthur

Canavan is a former lawman who just wants to settle down with a new wife and a new ranch; but when he immediately gets into a gunfight with a trio of youths whose family runs the town, things get rough quickly in Burt and Budd Arthur's Walk Tall, Ride Tall.

Burt and Budd Arthur were father and son, and prolific western writers on their own and together.  

This is a pretty standard oater in the "one man against a crooked town" vein.  To me the biggest drawback is that Canavan is not particularly likeable; he is aggressive and belligerent throughout and it occurred to me more than once that the townspeople were right, and he wouldn't make a very good neighbor.

I got this from a stash of books in a Secret Santa exchange and read it quickly.

Friday, February 19, 2021

#12: The Tenant by Katrine Engberg

Two mismatched cops (is there any other kind?) look for the killer of a young Copenhagen woman with strange carvings in her face in Katrine Engberg's debut The Tenant.

The young woman's landlord was writing a murder mystery featuring a character--and murder--very much mirroring real life, leading the detectives to look into her writing group, among other leads.

Engberg comes from an arts background, and it shows in interesting details, from a subsequent dead body found in a chandelier during a ballet performance to a famous artist with a penchant for manipulating his assistants.

Otherwise this is a pretty straightforward, though fast-moving, police procedural, for fans of Scandinavian crime novels.

I checked this out from the New Castle-Henry County Public Library and read it quickly.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

#11: The Westside Park Murders by Keith Roysdon and Douglas Walker

The Westside Park Murders is a nonfiction account about the notorious double homicide of two high schoolers in 1980s Indiana, with an extensive summary of past events and some speculation as to what happened by two local newspaper reporters.

I was extremely conflicted about reading this, as I went to high school with these students (though they were younger than me).  But it was interesting to revisit the people and places that I knew at the time.

This account is written in a very clear-eyed, journalistic style and appears to be made up of some prior newspaper articles as well as new information and interviews.  The case remains unsolved--it is occasionally revisited locally and appears to still be open--so does not really wrap up as continue to explore questions.

Although it has been featured in other articles, television programs, and podcasts over the years, this is a good read for fans of true crime.

I bought this from Amazon and read it very quickly.

Monday, February 8, 2021

#10: The Missing American by Kwei Quartey

An American goes to Ghana to meet a woman he connected to online and disappears; soon it's up to a straight-laced private investigator to find out what really happened in the first entry of Kwei Quartey's new series featuring Emma Djan, The Missing American.

Although Djan is the protagonist, there is a wide net of interesting characters, from enterprising streetwise internet scammers, to crooked cops and priests, to the highest politicians in the land.

The internet scam the American falls for is threaded all through the culture of Ghana, and Djan ends up brushing elbows with her former police colleagues (she quit after being targeted for sexual harassment), a charismatic priest with a pet alligator in a tub, and a mysterious masked journalist targeted for assassination for his writing, among others.  

This is an expansive, fast-moving crime novel with unique characters and situations.  For readers who wants to read something different.

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

Thursday, February 4, 2021

#9: The Preserve by Ariel S. Winter

A small-town cop and his big-city ex-partner--who happens to be a robot--try to solve a murder that seems to lead to a mysterious drug-trafficking network in Ariel S. Winter's The Preserve.

Winter writes a real genre-buster; it is a hard-nosed buddy-cop crime novel, but in a dystopian future where the human race has been reduced by plague (!) and has ceded control to robot overlords.  What few humans remain live in a vast self-governed preserve that functions somewhat like a reservation, with the robot government always sniffing around the borders.

What I liked about it was that the world-building is in the far background; the mystery is grounded in two cops chasing bad guys over 24 hours, with the clock ticking on a dangerous drug getting out.  There's no planet-shattering change in the status quo by the end of the fast-paced story.

Highly enjoyable and offbeat police procedural/science fiction mashup.

I checked this out from the New Castle-Henry County Public Library and read it quickly.