Tuesday, September 28, 2021

#48: A Man Named Doll by Jonathan Ames

 A former cop turned private eye is chucked headfirst into dangerous waters when another retired cop shows up needing a kidney in Jonathan Ames' violent, loopy detective novel A Man Named Doll.

Ames has an eclectic bibliography, but this one veers closer to his comedy-flavored private eye TV show Bored to Death.  

There is plenty of action, and our protagonist is responsible for lots of (accidental) deaths, but the core of it is pretty dark humor.  Doll gets colossally, somewhat accidentally, stoned during long passages of the novel in which he is in immense danger, which is quite funny.

Ames writes a solid detective novel with a lot of twists and turns and a likeable protagonist; it is apparently the first of a new series, and I am looking forward to the next.

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

Thursday, September 23, 2021

#47: Faithful Place by Tana French

A cop returns to the old neighborhood when the body of his lost love is found, triggering buried secrets, in Tana French's Faithful Place, part of her Dublin Murder Squad series.

The cop reluctantly reconnects with his brothers, sisters, and parents, whose fractured family dynamics--the father is a dangerous alcoholic--had driven him away several decades before.  But another killing, much closer to his family center, forces him to stay and try to find out what happened to both people.

I had seen the first season of the TV show but not read the related novels; though the connections between the novels are somewhat tenuous, with minor characters in previous books becoming main protagonists in subsequent ones.

French's strengths are her writing about the family, and the deep psychological trauma that spins out from the poisonous center.  Her sense of place--so to speak--in this case a working-class neighborhood, adds value.

My wife is a big fan of French, but this is the first I've read.  I listened to a very good audiobook reading by Tim Gerard Reynolds.  I will definitely look for more of her writing.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

#46: Ride Reckless by Marshall Grover

Two easygoing, but deadly, Texas cowpokes drift into a town ready to explode after a prospector hides a fortune in gold--and promptly dies--in Marshall Grover's Ride Reckless.

Grover was Australian Leonard Meares, who wrote literally hundreds of fast-paced westerns over several decades.  Somewhat inexplicably he is called Marshall McCoy in the States, and his two laconic protagonists Larry and Stretch are called Larry and Streak.  

Under either name, Larry and Streak take a bit of a backseat to a story about a western town under the thrall of a criminally-inclined mayor and a crooked sheriff.  The arrival of a crotchety old lady--who is the mother of the town lawyer's wife--and the niece of the dead prospector--conveniently married to a town-taming lawman--sets the whole machine of the narrative running.

Larry and Streak are a bit of a comedic Greek chorus, with the added benefit of fist fights and gun play when the story needs moving along.

I find Grover's books fast and easy reading; I knocked this one out on a weekend camping trip, and would recommend Larry and Streak to any western fans.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

#45: The Guide by Peter Heller

A fishing guide tries to reconcile his unsettling past by taking a job at a remote fishing lodge for affluent patrons, but almost immediately discovers all is not what it seems to be, in Peter Heller's The Guide.

The guide quickly finds an ally in a pop singer who has her own reasons for being there as a guest, and in short order the two are thrown together in an ever-tightening noose.

I found the thriller aspect to be compelling without being surprising, but the nature writing--with long passages about fly fishing and being in the wilderness--to be superb.  It is easy for a reader to see that Heller has a background in the outdoor lifestyle, and it makes great writing.

Heller's post-apocalyptic novel The Dog Stars is one of my favorites of the last several years and I was happy to come across this one at the public library.  

I was compelled to read this very quickly and thought the writing and storytelling were crisp throughout.  Recommended for thriller readers.