Sunday, January 30, 2022

#5: Gunsight Trail by Alan LeMay

 At the tail end of a dying Old West, a drifting cowpoke drifts right into a range war in Alan LeMay's Gunsight Trail.

This is an early oater from LeMay, who had great later success in his writing, including having works like The Searchers and The Unforgiven turned into memorable films.

This is a pretty standard western up to a point, with the cowpoke falling for one of the rancher's daughter and throwing in his luck with her family, up until a pretty bleak standoff at the end (that actually reminded me of the coda in the later novel The Searchers).

Still, standard LeMay is a cut above most cowboy writers, and I would recommend it to western fans.

I got this cheap for my beloved Kindle and read it quickly.

Friday, January 21, 2022

#4: The Witch Elm by Tana French

A young man survives a brutal home invasion, and retreats to his uncle's peaceful home to recuperate, only to have his life upended again when a body is found on the property in Tana French's The Witch Elm.

This taut thriller has a classic "unreliable narrator" hook, as the young man's memory gaps begin to make him wonder if he had something to do with the corpse (who turns out to be an old high school friend).  Two squabbling cousins, a dying uncle, and a questioning girlfriend stir the pot.

This one is a genuine puzzle right to the denouement, holding a surprise or two for the very end.  Satisfying characters and situations throughout, from a popular Irish crime writer.

I listened to this on audio book, on loan from the Henry County-New Castle Public Library in New Castle, Indiana.  Recommended.

Friday, January 14, 2022

#3: The Reluctant Gun Hand by Logan Winters

A misunderstanding lands a cowpoke a six-month prison sentence after a crooked gambler draws on him, and he has no luck staying out of trouble when he gets out, in Logan Winters' The Reluctant Gun Hand.

Winters was Paul Lederer, one of a legion of hard-working old-fashioned paperback scribes who wrote under a handful of names.  This one is a very solid western that reads almost like a noir.

The plot is definitely noir-flavored:  our protagonist is trying to make it back to a nice frontier gal, but is bushwhacked and then waylaid into a gang of outlaws preparing a robbery, with a triple-crossing femme fatale front and center.

Enjoyable, fast read I got for my beloved Kindle and read very quickly over a couple of winter's days.  I'll continue to read Lederer, in all his names, whenever I find him.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

#2: The Heap by Sean Adams

A giant, hive-like apartment building, designed as a sort of social experiment, collapses; somewhere deep inside, a lone DJ broadcasts from a radio station there, hanging on as his brother and an eclectic crew try to dig down to him in Sean Adams' The Heap.

With its frustrated middle management, fractured relationships, telephone booths, radio stations, instant coffee, and burnt-orange paint schemes, Adams' book reads exactly like a lost Philip K. Dick novel, and I enjoyed it more for that.  To me, it is a contemporary novel written as if was penned in the 60s or 70s and imagining today, if that makes sense.  

Unusual setting, with wry plotting that propels right along and holds a few surprises.

Recommended for sci-fi fans of Dick, Ballard, Delany, LeGuin.  I got this for my beloved Kindle and read it quickly.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

#1: Hello, Transcriber by Hannah Morrissey

A troubled police transcriber in a crime-choked Wisconsin town makes a spate of poor decisions that puts her right in the middle of a murder investigation in Hannah Morrissey's debut Hello, Transcriber.

Morrissey features an unreliable narrator (one of my favorite topics in crime fiction), signaling from the opening pages when the protagonist contemplates jumping off the bridge.  She then starts a destructive affair with a detective just back from suspension, investigating a murder that might involve her duplex neighbor.

The crime aspects hit all the right beats, but it is the characters and setting that really shine.  As opposed to a TV show like Fargo, Morrissey doesn't hold her Midwesterners at an ironic distance; she lives in Wisconsin (and was also a police transcriber), and her characters are flawed and fully-realized.

A good way to start off 2022; recommended for genre fans.  

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