Monday, June 28, 2021

#34: Ice Bomb Zero by Nick Carter

Killmaster Nick Carter hunts for a secret Chinese base in the Arctic, with a sexy Russian spy (there never seems to be any homely ones) as a lover and rival, in Ice Bomb Zero.

Ice Bomb Zero is part of a casual re-read I have been doing of this long-running series, which I consumed voraciously as a teen.  I picked this one by George Snyder, as he seems to be one of the pseudonymous authors favored by other readers.  Snyder had a long career as a scribe of burly men's adventure and, late in life, westerns.

This is a perfectly agreeable but unremarkable spy outing from the early 70s, with race and sexual relations not portrayed in a particularly nuanced way, as one might suspect.  The finale in the underground base unravels quickly at sort of a mid-range Roger Moore level.

The closeness in title to the popular Alistair MacLean novel Ice Station Zebra doesn't pass without notice.

I liked George Snyder's take on Nick Carter perfectly fine and would seek out another of his books.

I got this in a big lot of Nick Carters and read quickly.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

#33: The Summer of Kim Novak by Hakan Nesser

In early 60s Sweden, two teenage boys plan to spend an idyllic summer at a ramshackle lake cabin, but the real world intrudes with a mysterious murder in Hakan Nesser's The Summer of Kim Novak.

Nesser has written a popular series of police procedurals over the years; but this novel is a departure, more of a coming-of-age story and a portrait of Swedish life, with the murder unsolved but wrapped up rather enigmatically in the denouement.

Although the teens swim, bicycle, and meet girls (including the one from the title, a substitute teacher at the school who looks like Kim Novak and ends up dating an older brother), the storytelling is infused with melancholy and dread.  One kids' mom is an alcoholic, and his dad abusive; the other's mother is terminally ill.  The wide cast of characters include people on the margins, for various reasons.  The tension cranks up when the older brother is accused of the murder.

As much an exercise in literary fiction as a mystery; worthwhile for fans of either.

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

Friday, June 25, 2021

#32: The Killing Hills by Chris Offutt

An army investigator returns from overseas and heads into the hills of Kentucky to help his sister, a local sheriff, while trying to save his fractured marriage in Chris Offut's tough-minded rural noir The Killing Hills.

A woman's murder, her body found at a remote location, sets off a chain of retribution through the community that puts our protagonist square in the center.

Offutt writes with the authenticity of having grown up in this environment, with scenes that range from sorrowful to surreal to super-charged with danger.

This novel will undoubtedly be compared to Elmore Leonard's Raylan Givens stories (and accompanying television show Justified), but where Raylan Givens seems to easily master his environment, Mick Hardin is subsumed and overcome by it, leading to a melancholy coda.

The Killing Hills is a literate, fast-paced story with memorable characters and situations; recommended for crime fans.

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

Monday, June 14, 2021

#31: Lesson in Red by Maria Hummel

Maggie Richter is a writer/editor at a floundering art museum in L.A., from which she is on leave after helping solve an artist's murder; but the apparent suicide of a rising student artist at a top-flight L.A. art school puts her back in the mix in Maria Hummel's explosive novel Lesson in Red.

Hummel's first novel with Maggie Richter, Still Lives, was a literate thriller with a corrosive take on the art world; this one punches even harder in the underlying discussion of women in that culture.

I enjoyed this novel, but I suspect it was helped by the fact that I finished Hummel's first novel very recently.  The events of Still Lives are so closely ingrained in Lesson in Red that I don't think it would be as rewarding reading as a standalone.  And in fact there are still a number of plot threads from the first book--specifically the unusual death of one of the character's brother--that seem to be obvious fodder to make this a trilogy. 

Both of Hummel's books are hitting enough Book Clubs as to give her the chance to write another one, and I hope she does.  Recommended for those who have already read Still Lives.

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