Saturday, November 10, 2018

Review: WRECKED by Joe Ide

Publisher Orion Publishing Group Limited
Length 10hrs 52mins
Format audiobook

Narrator Sullivan JonesPublished 2018
Series IQ #3
My Copy I bought it

My Review

Isaiah Quintabe (aka IQ) can be likened to a modern day Sherlock Holmes, such is his superior intellect and heightened powers of deduction which are comparable to the renowned PI of early crime fiction. While his sidekick, Dodson isn't quite Sherlock's Watson, he's a great character and a perfect fit for IQ; both in his ability to help (and at times hinder) an investigation while also providing a humorous outlet for the often dire situations the duo find themselves in. 

In Wrecked, the third IQ novel, author Joe Ide dumb downs IQ a little which casts the urban sleuth in a new light; showcasing his insecurities and vulnerabilities, which ultimately transforms the character into something more real-world. His struggles and failures are gains for the reader and the supporting cast who pay a more pivotal role in the plot (this being Dodson, Gloria, and the bad guys). 

Wrecked reads perfectly well as standalone but is much better with the added context of the previous novels in IQ and Righteous.  

My rating: 5/5 stars. This series continues to grow from strength to strength. Highly recommended. 

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Review: FUGITIVE RED by Jason Starr

Publisher Oceanview
Length 304 pages
Format softcover
Published 2018
Series standalone
My Copy I bought it

My Review

There's just something about a Jason Starr novel that separates his writing from the rest. Be it the personal narrative surrounding his characters, the easily plausible accidental murder of his killers, or the intense family centered dynamic - all of it jells just right to form a unique blue-collar domestic noir - with a twist. 

Fugitive Red is perhaps one of the best yet.

Jack Harper is a struggling New York real estate agent, married to Maria, a successful corporate worker. Their son Jonah is the glue which keeps them together.

When Jack shows an apartment to a former band buddy, his thoughts of a bountiful commission give way to the lure of infidelity. Jack's onetime friend plants the seed of escaping the daily marriage grind by indulging in internet hookups - specifically, hookups for unhappily married people. 

The first time is the last time for Jack as his life spirals out of control after finding the woman going by the internet handle 'Fugitive Red' naked and very dead at their designated meet-up spot. 

Prime suspect, deadbeat husband, homeless, and attempted kidnapper are just some of the labels he dons during the course of the novel - but nothing is worse than the twist which turns everything on its head. 

My rating: 5/5 stars. I can't recommend this book highly enough.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Review: THE FADE OUT (ACT ONE) by Ed Brubaker and Scott Phillips

Publisher Image Comics
Length 120 pages
Format single issue
Published 2015
Series The Fade Out #1-4
My Copy I bought it

My Review

It was always little things that unlocked the blackout doors. Details... the lipstick makes him remember a smile. The smile leads to a voice...then a face. And that's how Charlie realized whose house he'd woken up in...right before he found her lying dead on the living room floor.

Bars, blackouts, limelight and lowlifes. The Fade Out is A-grade noir set in the Hollywood's golden era of film, where stars shone their brightest and studio cover-ups were commonplace - it was a time where murder was more hindrance than heinous . 

When screenwriter Charlie Parish stumbled upon starlet Valeria Sommers lifeless body less than twenty feet from where he was sleeping off 'the night before' in a bathtub, his first thought was to cover his tracks, his second thought, was the studio, the third - panic, for last night was drowned out in a watery wall of booze.

What follows is a murder mystery, a studio cover-up to make Sommers' untimely death a suicide, and the introduction of a bunch of seedy bit players all with something to gain by ignoring the murder.    

The only thing holding The Fade Out (Act One) back is the incomplete ending. Rather than tying loose ends, the story progressively evolves as the fictitious Hollywood branches out into new character side stories - each interesting enough but given this arc ran for 4 issues, the core plot element is largely left unresolved. 

A brief note on the art: Fantastic, moody, perfectly captures the essence of noir soaked Hollywood. 

My rating: 4/5 stars. As mentioned early, The Fade Out (Act One) lacks a conclusion and fails to deliver a single cohesive and self contained story, rather, continuing to build an elaborate and intrinsically linked cast of characters with backstories as dark as the back-alleys they deal. I loved this story arc, but think it would've been better with an extra issue or two, conceptually - 5/5.   

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Review: CHICAGO ASSASSIN by Richard J Shmelter

Publisher Cumberland House Publishing
Length 282 pages
Format Hardcover
Published 2008
Series standalone
My Copy I bought it

My Review

Prohibition-era Chicago was a dangerous and violent place in the 1920's in which immortalized iconic villains and heroes such as Al Capone, Elliot Ness, Frank Nitti, Johnny Torrio, Jack McGurn, Beulah Annan, and hard hitting crime reporter Maurine Watkins forged their way into the hearts and minds of people world-wide decades later. 

In Chicago Assassin, author Richard J Scmelter switches gears from the popular prohibition narrative involving Al Capone and to a lesser extent Elliot Ness, to focus on one of Capone's top hitmen in 'Machine Gun' Jack McGurn, recounting his violent upbringing which saw him loose two fathers to gangsters only for himself to embark on a life of crime behind the bang of a handgun (McGurn didn't tote a machine gun - this was used by the press as a headline grab to sell papers). 

Comprising episodic-like vinaigrette’s of murder capital USA during the prohibition era, Chicago Assassin, whilst not as deep as other prohibition books I've read, provides an interesting and well researched look at some of the characters who made the era what it was, including the pitch perfect pulp headline 'the Blonde Alibi', Lousie Rolfe, McGurns longtime partner. 

My rating: 4/5 stars. I've read Chicago Assassin twice now and highly recommend it for readers who are looking to learn more of this violent period in American history which goes beyond Al Capone. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Review: BLACKFISH CITY by Sam J. Miller

Publisher Orbit
Length 328 pages
Format softcover
Published 2018
Series standalone
My Copy I bought it

My Review

"Qaanaaq is an eight-armed asterisk. East of Greenland, north of Iceland. Built by an unruly alignment of Thai-Chinese-Swedish corporations and government entities, part of the second wave of grid city construction, learning from the spectacular failure of several early efforts. Almost a million people call it home, though many are migrant workers who spend much of their time on boats harvesting glacier for freshwater ice...or working Russian petroleum rigs in the far Arctic." 

Qaanaaq, the dystopian floating city is beautifully articulated, a living-breathing organism as distinctive and unique as the characters who inhabit it and those who flock to it in search of refuge from gangs, pirates, politics and other dangerous syndicates. 

To be honest, the characters and their stories were secondary to what author Sam J. Miller chose to write about, such was the addictive need to learn more about this strange, cold, yet futuristic and scarily plausible place.  

That said, I loved the myth surrounding the arrival of the woman riding an orca with a polar bear, caged, at her side and the increasing intrigue as the narrative of her unfurled. 
"People would say she came to Qaanaaq in a skiff towed by a killer whale harnessed to the front like a horse...At her feet, in heaps, were the kind of weird weapons and machines that refugee-camp ingenuity had been producing."
But the story wasn't just about the strange new comer, with 5 characters sharing page time with dedicated chapters, their occupations ranging from professional fighter, underworld boss, courier, unemployed rich kid, and political adviser. The multi POV added depth and enhanced the context and concept of Blackfish City.

My rating: 5/5 stars. Blackfish City a great dystopian Sci-Fi that blends sci-fi with tech-fi to create a scarily plausible future. 

Monday, October 8, 2018

Review: HEAVEN SENT by Alan Carter

Publisher Fremantle Press
Length 322 pages
Format softcover
Published 2018
Series Cato Kwong #4
My Copy provided by the publisher

My Review

'The world is mired in lies, chaos and darkness, mate.'...'You're a bringer of truth, order and light.'

'Not any more, I've had enough.'

The fourth book in the Cato Kwong crime series goes beyond the thin blue line of crime fiction and delves deep into the personal lives of its characters to provide not only a well written police procedural, but a book that humanizes the darker elements unlawful acts have on those who serve and protect as well as their loved ones.

Immediately the thing that sticks out about Heaven Sent is the connection the author has with the characters who traverse the streets of Fremantle, Western Australia, on either side of the law; Kwong is complex and not without his flaws. He's instantly likable and a well defined character, his actions often to the detriment of his family but the betterment of the Fremantle public. While, the elusive murderer who taunts police in a macabre game of cat and mouse is omnipresent, growing more dramatic and menacing with each chapter.

The place-setting and pacing are on point, with each murder adding a notch of intensity to Kwong's plight; take down the serial killer who targets the homeless and taunts the police.

Throw in an interesting journalistic angle and some beefy side plots and Heaven Sent becomes one meaty read that doesn't disappoint.  

My rating: 5/5 stars. Despite being the fourth book in the series, Heaven Sent is easily accessible to new readers, that said, I definitely want to check out the earlier books given how much I enjoyed this one. Highly recommend.

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Related review: 

THE MALBOROUGH MAN by Alan Carter (published 2017, Fremantle Press, standalone crime fiction)

Monday, October 1, 2018

Pick Up A Pulp [46]: CUT ME IN by Ed McBain

Ed McBain is best known for his long running 87th Precinct series, however, some of his best work includes So Nude So Dead (writing as Evan Hunter) and The Gutter and The Grave (writing as Curt Cannon), both pulp era crime reads re-printed as part of the Hard Case Crime stable. 

Originally published in 1954 under the pen-name Hunt Collins, Cut Me In is pure pulp; the protagonist is a masochist, the dames are wanton, and the murders plentiful. Throw in healthy doses of sexual innuendo more akin to pulp pushers like Carter Brown than McBain, and you've got a sleazy murder mystery full of buttery popcorn pulp. 

Josh Blake, a partner in a literary agency arrives in the office expecting to bleed for his clients and make some nice commission for the agency finds his partner, Del, murdered and the safe containing important and contentious contracts wide open. With a deal in the balance and the cops fingering him as a suspect, Blake turns into a semi-sleuth to help catch the killer. 

Cut Me In is a hell of a fun book to read. The plot is simple yet the characters not without their complexities while the pace is pulse pounding. I didn't pick the perp until the last few pages. 

The 2016 Hard Case Crime reprint also includes a novelette by McBain, featuring his under appreciated, PI Matt Cordell titled Now Die In It. Cordell also appears in the aforementioned The Gutter and The Grave. This novelette is a nice taster and teaser which has me wanting more Matt Cordell stories.