Sunday, February 24, 2013

Review: SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT by Max Allan Collins

Seduction of the Innocent by Max Allan CollinsSEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT is the third instalment in the Maggie and Jack Starr mysteries in which the duo tackle the war on comics lodged by Dr. Werner Frederick who sees comics as a pathway to violence for the impressionable youth of America circa 1954. With the imminent publication of a book condemning the fictional medium, the Starr Syndicate, headed by Maggie Starr attempt to curb Frederick’s influence by hiring him to write a regular column for their newspaper. The terms of the agreement prohibit Frederick from trash talking comics, something he agrees to under surprisingly little sufferance. However, what looks to be a clever and cunning business move soon turns sour when Frederick is discovered by Jack, dead, in his apartment. The comic industry stands much to gain by ridding the world of Frederick; the question for Jack is who of the many suspects is the guilty party?

I really enjoyed this. The murder mystery takes a little while to get going while Max Allan Collins establishes the key players and builds a lengthy list of potential suspects yet it still comes across as entertaining and essential to the later stages of the book. While this is the third mystery to feature the widow Maggie Starr and Jack Starr (a private eye of sorts), SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT reads extremely well as a standalone. The graphics at the start of each chapter are a real bonus – not only do they look cool, but add an extra element to the story and really capture that golden age of comics feel.

Max Allan Collins pays homage to the classic pulp novels by virtue of the style in which SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT is written and the panning out of the plot which results in a coming together of all the suspects to unveil the killer. Fans of the genre will appreciate the attention to detail in recreating this feel.

STRIP FOR MUDER is a solid and entertaining whodunit with a nice sidebar of historical fiction. Now to hunt down the other books to feature Jack and Maggie Starr: A KILLING IN COMICS, and STRIP FOR MURDER.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Delayed Gratification [1] - Books doing 'time' on the shelf

This series of blog posts examines books I’ve acquired which have spent considerable time on the shelf for one reason or another (in some cases many years). In an order to rediscover what attracted me to these books in the first place, each week/fortnight I plan on revisiting a handful with the aim of pushing them up the TBR pile and rekindling my interest.
The first post focuses on crime (which is where my reading is at right now). These books are a mix of kindle and print which I had fully intended to read asap simply because the blurbs sounded fantastic, yet they have been overlooked time and time again for reasons I’m not sure of.
Eightball BoogieFirst up is EIGHTBALL BOOGIE by Declan Burke (shelved from 2011) – one of the first books I bought for the kindle in early 2011 and I think that has something to do with it being shelved for the past couple of years. Lost amongst my plentiful collection of ebooks, this noir/hardboiled gem has been laying in wait like a snake ready to strike venom into this noir lover’s heart. I’m yet to read anything by Declan Burke, which is surprising given he writes my genre of choice. This will be rectified soon.
Check out the [GR] page for EIGHTBALL BOOGIE here:
The Boys from Santa Cruz: A ThrillerTHE BOYS FROM SANTA CRUZ by Jonathan Nasaw (shelved from 2010) – the fifth book to feature former FBI Agent Pender. I’ve been a fan of Jonathan Nasaw’s Pender series for over 10years with FEAR ITSELF one of my all time favourite books. THE BOYS FROM SANTA CRUZ takes a step back in time to an earlier case which looks to be just as heinous as Pender’s recent post retirement investigations. This is likely to sit on the shelf a little longer, largely due to it being a ‘series’ book I want to first familiarise myself with Pender again so a reread of book 4 WHEN SHE WAS BAD (a sexually charged physiological thriller which I whole heartedly devoured a few years ago – a worthy reread) is on the cards before dusting this one off.
The Big BangTHE BIG BANG by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins (shelved from 2010) – nestled in-between two of the newer Mike Hammer novels I’ve read in THE GOLIATH BONE (#14, published 2008) and KISS HER GOODBYE (#16, pub 2011), the 15th instalment in the Hammer series was overlooked partly as I had originally intended to read the series in order of publication and only made it through the first 9 (collected in three separate omnibus editions). I then felt the timing was right to try one of the newer novels co-authored by Max Allan Collins (THE GOLIATH BONE). Following that I obtained an e-arc of KISS HER GOODBYE via Netgalley to review which resulted in THE BIG BANG being left to collect dust on the shelf. I recently went back to the first Hammer novel in I, THE JURY which is the main reason for THE BIG BANG appearing in this post.
If anyone’s interested, feel free to share your delayed gratification and post a link in the comments to this post. Hopefully a gem or two will be unearthed.
Happy reading :-) 

Review: THE WRONG THING by Barry Graham

The Wrong ThingA violent balance of the renegade and romantic, THE WRONG THING merges two distinct traits and creates a central character that’s as deadly as he is endearing. For The Kid, a young man born more of myth than blood, bone and flesh, life hasn’t been easy. Undersized and undervalued, his home life brought nothing but pain and seclusion with crime a natural progression as part of his development. Subsequent incarceration ensures the family ties remain severed, while any foothold in the drug business is lost upon release back into the community. Here’s where the story gains momentum and things get a whole lot bloodier.

Barry Graham’s THE WRONG THING isn’t about a madman with a thirst for bloodletting, more so a young man who takes to violence as a means to an end. Knowing little by way of problem solving skills, any hurdles in his way succumb to brutality as bikies, police, and innocents feel the wrath of the urban badlands walking myth.

The Kid is much deeper than I had anticipated – he’s surprising well rounded, emotionally sound (if a killer can be) and in empathic towards the opposite sex, particularly when they’re in need of a saviour. He cooks, he loves, he kills. This simple yet highly effective premise serves Graham’s creation well. The basic need to love and care is balanced out by an easy violence that’s all too natural. I really enjoyed this black/white double sided take on what is a very interesting character.

I love noir that portrays a character in many forms and THE WRONG THING does that to perfection. The plot accompanies the character, the drive and progression of the story proceeds at the pace of the characters doing – everything else is peripheral. There is a hopelessness quality to THE WRONG THING that echoes long after the confronting ending concludes that resonates well for fans of the genre. Like the other titles I’ve read by Barry Graham, THE WRONG THING does not disappoint.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Review: TIGERS IN RED WEATHER by Liza Klaussmann

Tigers in Red WeatherTIGERS IN RED WEATHER is a finely tuned domestic drama that has the added intrigue of a small community murder. Told from multiple points of view, the interesting and heartbreaking story spans the period post world war II and some events during by which rationing and wartime romance are topics.

From 1944 through to 1969, the period piece provides a glimpse into the lives of a pair of cousins stemming from earlier memories at the Tiger house estate as youngsters themselves through to marriage and motherhood. Nick and Helena are portrayed as the classic yin gang yang with Klaussmann often casting the cousins in separate shades of gray. Their sides of the story couldn’t be different, where Nick thinks she’s helping, Helena perceives as hindering. It’s an intriguing format that encapsulates all aspects of a story from a variety of angles – much like in life, there is no single version of the truth.

Helena’s husband Avery is the Hollywood type whose shady dealings land Helena in hot water with Nick – the housewife who craves excitement and suffers boredom while seeking solace in adulterous fashion. Their children in Daisy (Nick’s daughter) and Ed (Helena’s son) develop a friendship of convenience by virtue of their close proximity to one another and historical ties to Tiger house. Klaussmann’s attention to feelings and knee jerk emotions is expertly crafted - from the discovery of a murdered young woman by Nick and Ed, to Ed’s subsequent development of an unsettling habit, each interaction and consequence changes the reader’s perception of events. The fifth character to have their side of the story told is Nick’s husband Hughes – a wartime vet returned home still coming to terms with a life far separate to his so called domesticated bliss. He’s pivotal to the story, while it may not seem apparent from the onset, Hughes adds a rough edge while at once taking a soft handed approach the murder discovery.

Klaussmann’s tale rivals Megan Abbott’s ability to convey so much with a mere gesture of fleeting glimpse of emotion. The characters tell a story through action with words often cheap and hollow. I enjoyed reading the different perspectives with all deepening the drama without feeling repetitive or necessary. Despite not a lot going on in terms of mystery, the character heavy tale maintained my attention from beginning to end – entirely captivating and well written.

TIGERS IN RED WEATHER is a beautiful book – the cover art portrays Daisy in perfect light, the story is strong through each iteration and the written flows seamless. I cant wait to see what’s next from Klaussmann.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Review: BOLERO by Joanie McDonell

Bolero: A Nick Sayler Novel“Even cut and bruised and bleeding, her kind of beauty opens doors everywhere.”

In BOLERO, the damsel isn’t driven to the private dick, rather a late night call by a concerned doctor issues PI Nick Sayler with an attractive case surrounding a mysterious and beautiful ballerina who has lost everything (material and memory) except the PI’s calling card. The victim of an assault has left the ballerina bruised and bloodied – the exact same way Sayler forges his friendships. In a nice bit of early symmetry this quickly establishes the PI as a man built on good fortune and friendships born from violence (generally as their saviour). There’s a doctor, Sloane, and an assistant in Meriwether who form part of a faithful inner circle aiding Sayler in his endeavours, coupled by Fallen and Goode – a pair of determined cops who are willing to go outside the law and bring the perpetrator to justice.

BOLERO is a sequence of mysteries, first surrounding the damaged ballerina’s identity, second a murder, third, an inscription left of the body of an assault victim with potential linkages to other crimes. For Sayler, the case becomes more personal as the ballerina’s memory slowly returns along with her personality and care for her saviour. It creates an interesting dynamic when her relationship status, circle of friendship, and professional situation exposed.

The damp, constant rainy, wet and grey setting complements the theme of BOLERO. I particularly liked the depiction of the ballerina in constant light as a contrast to the backdrop to really add a feel of warm loveliness otherwise missing in the dangerous world.

I would love to read more of Nick Sayler’s growing pains and journey from displaced child to determined private eye. Author Joanie McDonell paints a vivid yet slightly skewed picture of Sayler’s past that demands attention. While not a new coming of age/origin concept, the Sayler in the now is unique, entertaining and worthy of further exploration. This PI is one with a lot of potential.

Review: WHEN IT ALL COMES DOWN TO DUST by Barry Graham

When it all Comes Down to DustWHEN IT ALL COMES DOWN TO DUST is a wholly engrossing tale of three lives connected by a single event – a moment in time that bloodies the definition of predator and victim.

Laura – a fractured protagonist whose iron will and determination creates a fa├žade of normalcy to an anything but normal life. Author Barry Graham couldn’t have defined this character any better. Laura will draw upon all your emotions as her sordid past is sliced open with revelation after revelation building and knocking down the walls of a traditional protagonist.

Frank – a monster who took advantage of a young Laura yet wasn’t able to silence her. Now released from prison and apparently reformed, Laura’s past collides with the present with the only possible outcome; one last breath, one last bullet, one shot at a new life.

David - a journalist becomes involved with the object of his attention. After following Laura’s story and printing her privacy for all to read, David’s empathy and emotionally deep sense of self come to the forefront instilling him within Laura’s everyday life while also stabilising his often unpredictable professional life.  

The characters and plot itself rival the greats of noir in James M Cain and Cornell Woolrich. The tale Graham weaves spans what seems a lifetime from Laura’s lost childhood, encounter with Frank, to adult relationships while also providing a glimpse into David’s world and the causative factors that lead him to rethink his occupation.

WHEN IT ALL COMES DOWN TO DUST is a modern day classic noir – a story driven by solid characters that act on emotion and are glued by a sinister event which not only bloodies the past but stains the future. A must read for fans of noir.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Review: CZECHMATE (Jack Palms #3) by Seth Harwood

Czechmate (Jack Palms Crime)  The third instalment in the Jack Palms series picks up right where THIS IS LIFE left off. Jack is in hospital recovering from injuries sustained at the end of THIS IS LIFE - in short order, he’s out and in the crosshairs of Russian mob boss Alexi Akakievich. Before long all hell breaks loose and Jack is reacquainted with some former friends in Freeman and Miles who are a little more than a streaky blood stain of their former selves. With Czechs Vlade, Niki, Al, and SFPD Officer Shaw and FBI Agent Jane Gannon on his side, Palms takes on a foe in a death match that’s not for the faint hearted.

CZECHMATE is a short, sharp noir that reads like one constant action sequence. Hemmed in by pure brutality and basic instinct lies a deeper evolvement of character as Jack pulls the trigger and grows some cast iron balls, making the step from former actor to class act. Faced with a kill or be killed situation, Harwood pulls no punches in thrusting his protagonist into a world of pure unadulterated pain. This is as violent a book I’ve read in a while – yet it’s not without cause. Harwood uses each independent fight for the betterment of the overall Jack Palms story to tie the chaos into the broader continuity.
My only gripe with CZECHMATE is that it follows directly from THIS IS LIFE. While good if you've read THIS IS LIFE recently, I for one, had let too much water pass under the bridge between the second and third instalment and had to go back to the later stages of THIS IS LIFE to pick up the story. That saidm CZECHMATE is a very solid read - an action packed crime fest that doesn't let up. Bullets fly, bodies are decimated, heroes are born and villains get their just deserves. It's a nicely rounded story that's not too deep but sure packs a punch. I'm looking forward to see where Seth Harwood takes Jack Palms next. The Hollywood actor has rid his former profession - time to see how he makes it as a fully fledged hero.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Noir Novellas - an OzNoir Book List

Below are some of my favourite noir novellas. Each word is a dagger, the plots so sharp they cut deep into the readers memory keeping the story alive long past the last page turn.

I am sure to have missed many good novellas and welcome any recommendations. In no particular order:

FIERCE BITCHES by Jedidiah Ayres
Fierce Bitches
In my review I wrote that FIERCE BITCHES is 'a haunting and violent slice of noir set amongst a desolate backdrop where ramshackle residents live and die by their vices.' The first novella published through Crime Factory is a winner.
KILLING MUM by Allan Guthrie
Killing Mum
From my review: Guthrie always brings a lot of justifiable violence and relevant brutality to his fiction but in 'Killing Mum' he brings the added element of dark humour and a questionable state of mind to the lead character (think Goodis 'Nightfall').
OLD GHOSTS by Nik Korpon
Old Ghosts
From my review: Lean poetic prose personified by vivid and visceral characterisation. While gory there is a blood crusted beauty to the delivery and style by which Korpon crafts these scenes.
GUN by Ray Banks
From my review: just another bullet leaving the chamber for Banks who continues to deliver time and time again. GUN is a must for fans of Banks.
SMOKE by Nigel Bird
From my review: 'Smoke' is a slick, well defined deft tale which embodies the darker side of every day life.
THE LAST DEEP BREATH by Tom Piccirilli
The Last Deep Breath
From my review: The downtrodden characters and seedy occupation contribute to a feeling of grey (apt name for a protagonist in this setting), you know its not going to end with roses and sunshine yet you’re hopelessly drawn to the conclusion.
 BUTTERFLY POTION by Trent Zelazny
Butterfly Potion
From my review: Trent Zelazny’s novella is a quick fire noir with all the hallmarks you’d expect of the genre.
Ishmael Toffee
From my review: This is a powerful novella. It's noir filled with heart-warming and heartbreaking moments.
R.I.P ROBBIE SILVA by Tony Black
R.I.P Robbie Silva
From my review: Tony Black’s style and story substance is a beautiful mash-up of Ken Bruen, Dave Zeltersman, Alan Guthrie, and Ray Banks.
SHOTGUN GRAVY by Chuck Wendig
Shotgun Gravy
From my review: With a reputation forged by a forgetful past, the protagonist of ‘Shotgun Gravy’ oozes sentiments of Sophie Littlefield’s female vigilante, Stella Hardesty. Atlanta Burns, a YA cult hero in the making accounts for her troubles and those of the class underdog by drawing upon basic human survival instinct – and a can of bear mace.


Inside StraightGraham Ellis, pro pit boss and company man finds himself on the wrong side of management and ends up being transferred from a prestigious casino to one that caters to the lesser likes of gambling society. It’s a demotion showed in mystery, yet stinking of management insecurity. For Graham, the pit is his life – aside from the single guy syndrome of sci-fi-like shows and comics, it’s his only form of reality, a more meaningful way to meander through life. When the transfer comes about as a result of ‘stress’, Graham knows something is off, having been at the top of his game, with only a blip on his near perfect radar as a result of a miss timed whale, their reasoning for the transfer screams scapegoat. Yet management refuse to deal in honesty – rather overused HR buzz terms and contradictory statements. For Graham, the relegation is more than a change of scenery, and one that threatens to eventually place him behind bars instead of cards.

INSIDE STRAIGHT is a very good novel. The protagonist, Graham Ellis is likable despite his flaws. He’s an average Joe out to make an honest living...until a local gangster in Barry Pollard sets his sights on him. Before long, Graham becomes the inside man on a robbery which was meant to turn his life around, leaving him flush and without cause to stay in the hovel of a casino his finds himself This being a Ray Banks book, you can be assured that rainbows and happy sunshine endings aren’t a guarantee. Dreams of ships and wealth turn to nightmares of dismemberment and imprisonment.

I loved the way Banks keeps you guessing, is Graham Ellis victimised or ignorant of his own shortcomings? Blinded by his own perception of self; can it be possible that he really is stressed and his performances in the pit less than exemplary? Or is everyone else wrong? The answer elusive and up to interpretation – it’s great that Banks allows for this flexibility in his latest noir fiction.

There are many strong points to INSIDE STRAIGHT; it’s engaging, character driven, well plotted, and has a turn or two you wont see coming. Yet another great addition to a growing list of must read books by Ray Banks.

Review: ALREADY GONE by John Rector

Already GoneReese has an unsavoury past – one that he’d put behind him as he concentrated on being a good husband, author, and teacher at a University. However, when a violent encounter by two unknown assailants leaves him with a digit less, he presumes his former criminal ways are back to ruin his peaceful existence. He was part right.

ALREADY GONE wastes no time in delivering the drama. From the outset author John Rector grabs the reader’s attention and never fails to let go. The story takes a few twists and turns and ultimately catches you off guard. It’s the sort of crime novel you wish every crime novel was; tightly plotted, explosive, unpredictable, yet emotionally deep. The portrayal of Reese and Diane’s marriage is multi faceted, all at once wholesome, tragic, a sham, and meaningful. The personal element added to the over crime and ensured each subsequent action was not without cause regardless of how suspect it seemed (re: Gabby).

What I love about ALREADY GONE is that the villain isn’t easily identifiable throughout the novel. Sure Gabby (former crim and father figure to Jake), Lisa (fortune teller), Diane (Jake’s wife and art dealer), Briggs (art collector, bad man) etc all have a shadier side to them, some more noticeable than others but all fit the role in some form or another. Even the ending doesn’t truly account for the actions of certain characters – did they do it for the betterment of themselves or are they genuinely good people caught in a bad situation, or perhaps the bad guys are misunderstood? Either way, this constant guesswork post reading (and while reading) leaves me very satisfied. I like that - for me, the ending is open ended and leaves much to individual interpretation – a perfect way to end a very good book.
This makes it three for three for books I've read by John Rector, with THE GROVE my favourite of a high quality bunch:
THE GROVE (my Goodreads book review)
THE COLD KISS (book info)

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Review: WHAT THE DEAD KNOW by Laura Lippman

What the Dead KnowOne half of the daughters of a missing persons case dating back to 1975 makes a remarkable return via the unlikeliest of circumstances. Heather Bethany is involved in a hit and run and is soon the subject of much interrogation as police, doctors, social workers, and her lawyer try to pry the truth surrounding her disappearance many years ago. Complicating matters is that Heather isn’t forthcoming even with her own identity for fear of having her seemingly quiet existence thrown into the media spotlight. Her reluctance to divulge her identity prompts questions surrounding her credibility and subsequently, once she releases information, the accuracy thereof.

A former detective returns from retirement, a 14yr case he couldn’t solve comes back to haunt him. A simple mistake or glimpse of information discarded and not investigated plays constant on his mind. The frequent inner battle Chet faces is both a past and present one which adds another dimension to the events surrounding Heather’s recent reappearance.

WHAT THE DEAD KNOW isn’t an action packed crime game of cat and mouse and police shootouts though it isn’t without drama and anticipation. Surrounding the events that led to the disappearance of Sunny and Heather Bethany and ongoing investigation upon the return of Heather follows the police procedural theme while also focusing on family drama from the then and now. The slow decimation of the Bethany family as a result of this tragic event plays out like a car crash, you can’t help but look knowing it’s going to be bad. That’s exactly how things turn out for the Bethany family.

Lippman’s style extensively captures the mood and emotion of her characters and defines the place-setting to such an extent it feels like your there with the Bethany girls back in 1975. While at times, the descriptive nature of the writer felt unwarranted and padded out the novel, it did serve a purpose.

For me, the best thing about WHAT THE DEAD KNOW is the way Lippman is able to completely flip the story on its head. True enough, Heather’s credibility is a constant question mark, but what Lippman does will shock. A very well and deeply plotted ending ensures.

WHAT THE DEAD KNOW is not the fasted of novels in terms of plot progression, it’s more of a slow burn with information released in crumbs before the full course meal is unveiled at the end. I actually liked this approach, it complement the story and increased the levels of anticipation.

WHAT THE DEAD KNOW is a decent tale and not your standard crime novel that’s more drama than action but still worth a look.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Review: LONG WAY DOWN (Gus Dury) by Tony Black

Long Way Down (Gus Dury #5)As I read LONG WAY DOWN I kept trying to place it within the existing Gus Dury continuity - the result being somewhere in-between GUTTED AND LOSS as there is no mention of Amy (prominent in LONG TIME DEAD) or the events proceeding LOSS (where Gus’ personal life is thrown to the wolves and his left with little more than macerated scraps of an existence). LONG WAY DOWN is a perfect standalone story made more meaningful by reading the full lengths. Gus isn’t the traditional PI, more an accidental finder by virtue of his loose association with the underworld and being mates with Mac the Knife and Hod – his cases are usually personal or to help out a friend in need.

In LONG WAY DOWN, Gus is tasked by one of Shakey’s subordinates, Danny Murray, to locate the whereabouts of a recently released former friend from jail suspected of getting into bed with some shady characters that threaten Shakey’s criminal empire. Barry Fulton has information, Shakey want it, Gus is forced to be the intermediary.

This is a simple enough scout and retrieve sort of tale with a distinct nod to the grimy Edinburgh Black so masterfully creates. The omnipresent grey clouds every judgement making a character interaction fall short of genuine (re: Barry’s former girlfriend), to the extent that even Gus’s motives and intention aren’t clear. Good stuff.

Despite being a novella, LONG WAY DOWN is very satisfying. It’s a well written self contained story that marks a solid entry point to the life of Gus Dury for new readers while providing a nice sidebar for those well into the series.

Hit up the labels to read my reviews of other books by Tony Black.

Review: DOPE THIEF by Dennis Tafoya

Dope ThiefDOPE THIEF is essentially two tales – one of pure balls-to-the-wall, all out adrenaline noir, the other a quiet unassuming suburban-like cozy noir made for book lovers. Ray, one half of the sting duet features in both acts, firstly as a methodical hardened criminal accustomed to strong arm tactics, and lastly as a man trying to win his way back into society using money for good and making recompense for past discretions.

I love the concept of thieves imitating DEA agents to raid drug houses. The raids are calculated, written in a style I can only compare to THE WIRE. There is an urban war feel to the first act of DOPE THIEF delivered in a way that’s both realistic and humbling. Almost a case of Robin Hood with the dope thieves performing a public good by way of eliminating the competition for a much larger player. Justifiable as it may seem, it’s oh so violent with a knife edge balancing act omnipresent throughout each raid. You wait for it to go pear shaped and the author doesn’t disappoint.

“Laying there spattered with blood under the white moon like a hull of bone, he saw that there was almost nothing in it and that all around him were the dogs that slinked under the table and chewed each other’s throats for scraps….Ripping at each other with teeth and black claws and the whole time dying themselves, worn thin and bleeding. Wandering away to die alone or killed for their weakness.”

Ray and Manny become embroiled in a bikie drug war after accepting a raid by middleman Ho which lands them in the thick of bullets and bodies. No longer does the quick score seem as important, as Ray and Manny try to keep their heads away from the chopping block. While the violence is plentiful, the introspective dialogue and flashbacks to an unfortunate event which resulted in the death of Ray’s teen girlfriend really drive DOPE THIEF, turning it from pure entertainment to sometime much more meaningful. Ray’s past both condemns and redeems him - for me, the highlight of the novel.

DOPE THIEF is a very well written and multi faceted noir catering to the violent edged fiction enthusiasts and those readers who enjoy character driven journey tales laden with heartache and break alike.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Review: LONG TIME DEAD (Gus Dury #4) by Tony Black

Long Time Dead (Gus Dury, #4)Tony Black never tires of punishing his protagonist Gus Dury, having endured monumental loss in the previous series instalment (aptly titled LOSS), Dury now faces a very real possibility of losing his life to drink. His situation so dire, that the opening chapters of LONG TIME DEAD see the sometime PI recovering from a particularly bad bout of self inflicted sickness. Coupled with the accompanying bar room brawls and subsequent injuries, Gus’s health is in a bad way. Luckily (subjective of course), Gus’ mate, Hod is in the bad books with local thug Shaky and needs Gus to rekindle his detective persona in order to front enough cash to keep the dogs off his back. Gus, owing Hod for a lifetime of aid takes a case which eventuates in a race to the reaper with both the case and drink vying for Gus’s lifeblood.

Ben, the son of actress, Gillian Laird is found dead in a university – the case initially billed as suicide by the local filth turns to something much more involved and sinister as Gus and co investigate the happenstance. Digging uncovers a cult of sorts which unveils a murderous ritual and past crimes spanning decades.  Adding to the continuity of the series, Shaky and his muscle are linked to the killing(s) by virtue of a drug angle. In jig time, Ben’s death and his mothers squeaky clean perception of her son are tainted and more complex than Gus had bargained for.

There are a number of familiar faces in LONG TIME DEAD. Hod, Gus and Debs are there, but it’s the return of Amy, a former understudy of sorts to Gus in his former life as a journalist that has the most impact on the damaged protagonist. Now at Uni, her sleuthing skills are once again called upon by Gus to aid the investigation. I liked the sense of family building here, Gus’s support network is forming as a tightly knit unit yet a mere pull of a loose thread ever threatens to ruin it. Tony Black does a great job at keeping the dark cloud hovering above every good aspect to Gus, you know it’s going to turn bad, the question is when?

LONG TIME DEAD is a decent whodunit cult-like murder investigation with a damaged and hopelessly tortured PI whose personal story is both a joy and a train wreck. This series is brutally honest and caters to all who like their fiction extra Black.
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