Saturday, December 23, 2017

Favorite Crime Fiction of 2017

1. The Force by Don Winslow
Denny as a character is flawed and exceptionally well written; author Don Winslow goes to great lengths to give Denny a story that's deep and tragic - from his formative police years through to his failed marriage, to the unmistakable bond he shares with his fellow officers - there's a richness to his story which makes The Force all the more better. 

Read the full review here




2. October is the Coldest Month by Christoffer Carlsson
October is the Coldest Month is a quick read that will resonate with the reader long after the last page is turned. Vega is a character I just want to read more of, along with backstory snippets of past conflict over land and the illegal making of moonshine, these's a whole lot more to this book that begs for a second volume.

Read the full review here




3. Lola by Melissa Scrivner Love
Not for the faint of heart, this gang-centric novel is brimming with violence at every turn. Starting with a deal to embed themselves in the drag trade, the Crenshaw Six are immediately immersed in a world of murder and kidnapping with their leader, the fearless and ambitious Lola front and center. Ending with further bloodshed, Lola maintains a murderous pace throughout bringing with it a fully fleshed plot with realistic and intriguing characters with the promise for more. 

Read the full review here



4. The Late Show by Michael Connelly
In The Late Show, Michael Connelly introduces a new character, Renee Ballard, a detective who works the night shift (also know as the late show). Ballard is a nice change of pace from Bosch - quick to temper, dedicated to the badge, and brings a female perspective to the fictional LAPD set in the same 'world' as Bosch.

Read the full review here



5. Quarry's Climax by Max Allan Collins
Quarry's Climax is another great addition to the expanding catalog of Quarry novels that will sit well with both new readers (those only familiar with the character from the TV series) and longtime readers alike.

Read the full review here







6. The Girl Who Was Taken by Charlie Donlea
The Girl Who Was Taken is one hell of book. It's fast paced, full of suspense and has a twist that hit this reader like a freight-train, wow, I'm usually pretty good at picking 'who done it' when it comes to mysteries but I was completely taken aback by how this book panned out. The writing is slick and the characters well defined and easily readable. Livia Cutty is character I could easily more of, think of her as a younger version of Kay Scarpetta; a hit series waiting to happen in my opinion. 

Read the full review here


7. Little Deaths by Emma Flint
Set in 1965, Little Deaths takes the reader on a gut wrenching and disturbing ride of crime as a young, over enthusiastic (and obsessive, boarding on creepy) reporter becomes enthralled in a kidnap case which evolves into the murder of two young children; their mother, the attractive and flirtatious Ruth Malone the key suspect. 

Read the full review here




8. Castle Danger Woman on Ice by Anthony Neil Smith
Castle Danger - Woman on Ice is a book that grows on you. It went from a 3, to 4, to 5 star read by the time I finished it. This is not at all what I was expecting; characters straight from James Ellroy, topics hot in modern day society, and (what I did expect) damn fine story telling from an author whose catalog continues to diversify (I strongly recommend checking out All The Young Warriors and the Billy Lafitte series). 

Read the full review here




9. The Secrets She Keeps by Michael Robotham
The Secrets She Keeps is a great read that that me hooked all the way through. By the end of the book I really felt like I knew these characters and felt for their respective situations. Michael Robotham also does a fantastic job at writing from the female perspective - that mother-child bond is omnipresent throughout the novel and highlighted by some terrific writing.

Read the full review here




10. Ten Dead Comedians by Fred Van Lente
The heady mixture of murder and comedy makes for an addictive read from opening stanza to punch line. In this murder mystery, author Fred Van Lente employs a number of classical genre tropes but keeps the story fresh with a healthy dose of humor. As the title suggests the plot revolves around a group of comedians brought to an island under false pretenses, thinking they're going to collaborate with a comedy heavyweight only to be picked off one by one by a mysterious murderer. I couldn't put it down.

Read the full review here [Goodreads]


11. Crimson Lake by Candice Fox
Crimson Lake is a fast moving book with well developed and likable characters but its strength lies in the detail; the meretricious weaving of plot threads to form a single coherent narrative results in a truly enveloping tale that races towards an edge-of-your-seat finale. 

Read the full review here






12. Becoming Bonnie by Jenni L. Walsh
Becoming Bonnie is not the crime novel you might think, rather, author Jenni L Walsh cleverly blends fact and fiction to depict the rise of this deadly duo in the early 1920’s with both characters finding their feet in the world of crime as well as each other. 

Read the review here

Friday, December 22, 2017

Review: THE LATE SHOW by Michael Connelly

Publisher Orion Publishing Group Limited
Length 9hrs 21mins
Format audiobook
Published 2017
Series Renee Ballard #1
My Copy I bought it


In The Late Show, Michael Connelly introduces a new character, Renee Ballard, a detective who works the night shift (also know as the late show). Ballard is a nice change of pace from Bosch - quick to temper, dedicated to the badge, and brings a female perspective to the fictional LAPD set in the same 'world' as Bosch. The story opens with a frenetic night of policing as Ballard is called to three crime scenes, each with a different flavor; a credit card scam, a vicious assault on a street walker, and a multiple homicide in a night club - this frenetic pace is sustained throughout the book as Ballard juggles all three through to their conclusion. 

I really enjoyed The Late Show and love the continuity nod to the Bosch series, it'll be interesting to see if Ballard and Bosch work together at some point. 

A note on the audio version read by Katherine Moening - I felt the narration was on point. Moening gave Ballard a voice which felt natural, and each character came across as unique. I hope Moening reads more Ballard stories. 

My rating: 5/5 - one of my top crime reads of the year.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Review: STAR WARS: CANTO BIGHT

Publisher Dell Rey Books
Length 295 pages
Format softcover
Published 2017
Series Star Wars
My Copy I bought it



I’d suggest reading Canto Bight after watching the Last Jedi. The film gives some context and perspective to the casino town which is hard to imagine from the limited exposure the 4 novellas offer. Whilst good in their own right, the lack of a predefined visual aide dampers the atmosphere in the novellas – the casino town is not Las Vegas nor does it compare in the film to it as such, so having a preconceived notion of the cityscape is recommended.

The first novella, Rules of the Game by Saladin Ahmed is a great way to open the collection. The story centres on a lowly long term employee (who had clocked up 102 years for the company) who finally wins the coveted employee of the year award which in turn provides him a holiday to the casino town. He’s promptly swindled out of his cash and luggage before nearly being killed. His innocence is a joy to read and I really felt for the character. The cityscape is used well, providing a glimpse into greater playground for the rich outside of the scenes from The Last Jedi.  

The Wine of Dreams by Mira Grant didn’t feel like a star wars story or a story which used the setting of the Casino world Cantonia at all. Contained largely to a night club and primarily focused on the sale of a rare wine of a little known and largely elusive vintage, the novella’s saving grace is the characters which are well defined and unique. Canto Bight is more an afterthought than critical element to the story and it’s this aspect that ultimately lets it down.

The third novella, Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing by Rae Carson puts the collection back on track. There’s also some nice connectivity with The Wine of Dreams with the night club owner being named dropped on occasion. This story is centred on a masseur and former hitman who gets roped into murder for hire once more in order to save the life of his adopted daughter.

The last novella by long time Star Wars scribe John Jackson Miller, The Ride, is perhaps the most ‘casino’ based of the collection. Despite the story not having much depth, we do get a decent look at the various gambling outlets Canto Bight has to offer. The crux of the plot: a gambler loses money owned by an underworld figure and has one night to win it all back, luckily for him; he stumbles upon three aliens who have a strange knack for winning, and winning big. I liked this one.


My rating: 3/5 stars. Whilst the stories themselves are well written and entertaining, I would’ve liked more exploration of Canto Bight. 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Review: POLICE AT THE STATION AND THEY DON'T LOOK FRIENDLY by Adrian McKinty


Publisher Blackstone Audio
Length 9hrs 49mins
Format audiobook
Published 2017
Series Sean Duffy #6
My Copy I bought it

The murder of a known drug dealer sets off a chain of events which ultimately leads Sean Duffy to dig his own grave. Down a rabbit warren of violence, corruption, assassination, and complicated by vigilante groups and IRA hit squads, this murder is anything but a simple gang/drug related homicide. 

Much like the other books in the series, there's a healthy dose of Duffy's personal life which adds depth to the character, this time round it's the added emphasis on Duffy as a family man with live-in girlfriend Beth and baby Emma. Naturally there's family trouble which fuels Duffy's investigative prowess in hunting down the killer/group responsible for the murder in order to make a safer place for his young family. Beth and Duffy's actions also dictate the course of events to a certain degree which keeps things interesting. 

One of the things that I love about the Sean Duffy novels is the characters (The Crab-man, Lawson, Sean etc) and with each installment in the series these character come more to life. There was one moment in the book which pulled on the heart strings which I won't go into as to avoid spoilers but will say it's very well written and full of tension. 

Police at the Station and They Don't Look Friendly is the sixth book in the series and while this reads well enough as a self contained police procedural, I would recommend picking up the first book The Cold Cold Ground and reading through to this one to feel the full impact of the story.

My rating: 4/5 - the life of Sean Duffy is as dangerous as a mercury tilt bomb. 

You can read my review of Rain Dogs, book 5 in the Sean Duffy series by clicking on the link below.

Review: RAIN DOGS by Adrian McKinty


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Books I'm Looking Forward To Reading in 2018 [Part 2]

Pretty much as soon as I published my blog post of books I'm looking forward to reading, new books were teased on social media that immediately took my interest.

Related Post: Books I'm Looking Forward To Reading in 2018 [Part 1]

Here's the next batch of books that I'm looking forward to in 2018 in no particular order:


The Raptor and The Wren by Chuck Wendig (January, Simon & Schuster) - the fifth Miriam Black book. These are great, though I'm a little behind (still need to read book 4), I enjoyed the hell out of the first three. 


I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara (February, Harper Collins) - I first came across this book thanks to a Megan Abbott tweet and have been convinced ever since that I've got to read this book. I was also lucky enough to snag an e-arc from the publisher recently. From the blurb:

For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.

Sunburn by Laura Lippman (February, William Morrow) - Most of the books I've read by Laura Lippman have been great (the standalones in particular) and I'm very excited for this coming in Feb. Check out that blurb:


Psychological suspense about a pair of lovers with the best intentions and the worst luck: two people locked in a passionate yet uncompromising game of cat and mouse. But instead of rules, this game has dark secrets, forbidden desires, inevitable betrayals—and cold-blooded murder.




Don't Believe It by Charlie Donlea (April, Pengiun Random House) - The Girl Who Was Taken was one of my top crime reads for 2017 and this book looks to be another winner. From the blurb: 

The Girl of Sugar Beach is the most watched documentary in television history—a riveting, true-life mystery that unfolds over twelve weeks and centers on a fascinating question: Did Grace Sebold murder her boyfriend, Julian, while on a Spring Break vacation, or is she a victim of circumstance and poor police work? Grace has spent the last ten years in a St. Lucian prison, and reaches out to filmmaker Sidney Ryan in a last, desperate attempt to prove her innocence.

Read my review of The Girl Who Was Taken here.

Thrawn: Alliances by Timothy Zahn (June, Penguin Random House) - The sequel to 2017's Thrawn (which is awesome). Looking forward to the Darth Vader team up. A must read for fans of Thrawn (I strongly recommend the original Thrawn trilogy) and fan of the new canon books (can we still call it 'new cannon' now?).

Read my review of Star Wars: Thrawn here. 

Quarry's War by Max Allan Collins (June, Titan Comics) - Hard Case Crime and Quarry go together like me and books (which is to say, very well). I've enjoyed the publisher's foray into graphic novels with Titan so fan and this looks certain to be another winner. I was tempted to get these as floppies (monthly comics) but think the story will flow better as a trade (collected). 

The Synapse Sequence by Daniel Godfrey (June, Titan) - I really enjoyed the two books in the New Pompei series. The Synapse Sequence looks to be a standalone/start of a new series. From the blurb: 

Anna Glover joins a start-up company that hopes to revolutionise solving crimes by combining the memories of witnesses into a virtual reality simulator that can be explored by an investigator. Her first case is that of a fostered teenage boy put in a coma by a brutal assault, and she begins to explore his memories, the only witness to the crime. But when the boy's sister disappears and Anna's own actions are called into question, it becomes clear that there are other motives in play, and there are those who do not want her to succeed...

Monday, December 11, 2017

Pick Up A Pulp [29]: QUARRY'S CLIMAX by Max Allan Collins

Despite being published in 2017 by Hard Case Crime, the latest installment in the long running hit-man series by Max Allan Collins reads as a perfectly placed period pulp. That is to say, it reads like it should've been published in the 70's which is fitting, given Quarry's Climax takes readers back to one of Quarry's earlier jobs circa 1975. 

Unlike the usual hit man for hire, Quarry is instead hired to take out another hit man team; one targeting the head of a popular men's magazine and gentleman's club, Max Climer. The link Broker has with this figure head is a bit of a mystery but the money is on the table and Quarry takes it - accompanied by Boyd, the passive member of the team, the duo set out for Memphis and quickly establish themselves as part of Max Climer's security team.

The mystery surrounds not only identifying who the contract killers are but also who hired them. It doesn't take too long before a shortlist of suspects forms and from there it's a gradual process of elimination. I gotta say, I didn't pick the person gunning for Max despite it being obvious as the story played out.  

As with any Quarry novel, there's loads of hot dames and hotter sex along with bodies, bullets, and Quarry's cool demeanor and easy acquiesce of violence as a solution front and center.

Quarry's Climax is another great addition to the expanding catalog of Quarry novels that will sit well with both new readers (those only familiar with the character from the TV series) and longtime readers alike.

My rating: 5/5, this Quarry is reminiscent of the character we see in the TV series but a tad more battle hardened (i.e. a more experienced hit man). Boyd also seems to have more page time which added a little something extra to the novel; I really enjoyed the chemistry he and Quarry had in this one. 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Pick Up A Pulp [28]: THE CASE OF THE CURIOUS BRIDE by Erle Stanley Gardner

This was my first foray into the world of Perry Mason and I was pleasantly surprised. 

The fifth installment in the long running Perry Mason series; a lawyer/private detective mashup of sorts, sees Perry Mason, off his own back take on a case where the defendant, at point of contact, has no idea she needed a lawyer to defend her against a murder charge. Rather, Rhoda Lorton, was asking the lawyer for help in a domestic case; her 'friends' husband had been missing, presumed dead for 7 years and now this 'friend' wants to know if she can marry again without having evidence of the husband's actual death.

What follows is pure pulp, and perfectly paced plotting as Perry Mason unravels a deadly thread of murder, cover-ups and schemes all centered around his apprehensive and somewhat unofficial client, Rhoda. 

One of the thing I really liked about this book is the nature of Perry's unconventional investigative techniques. He employs a private eye but dabbles in the investigative angle himself - from casing out a murder scene, to tailing Rhoda's circle of friends - he's just as much a private eye as he is a lawyer - a hallmark of the series.

'My methods,' he said, 'are unconventional. So far they've never been criminal. Perhaps they're tricky, but they're the legitimate tricks that a lawyer is entitled to use. In cross-examining a witness I have got a right to use any sort of test I can think up, any sort of a build-up that's within the law.' 

Then there's the court room antics which, to be honest, I found more entertaining than many of the modern day court room thrillers on the best seller list. There is some legal jargon but not too much that the reader can't easily follow what's going on. 

The supporting cast is great; the aforementioned private eye on payroll, Paul Drake, and his trusty and street smart secretary, Della Street compliment Perry. 

My rating: 4/5 stars, hits all the right notes for a pulp with some legal smarts thrown in. Perry Mason is an interesting character who I look forward to reading more of (I've got quite a few of these pulps in my tbr pile). The Case of the Curious Bride also has the added benefit of reading perfectly well as a standalone. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Review: BYE, BYE, BABY by Max Allan Collins

Publisher Brilliance Audio
Length 9hrs 40mins
Format audiobook
Published 2011
Series Nate Heller #15
My Copy I bought it

The events surrounding the death of Marilyn Monroe have always intrigued me and the 15th installment in the Nate Heller P.I series delves deep into the conspiracy to form a nice fictional period piece of the events in the lead up to the Hollywood starlet's untimely demise, while adding to Heller's already impressive client list and all round influence in, well, pretty much every pie he slips his finger into; the mob, Hollywood, politics, and the police.

Bye, Bye Baby is told in two distinct stanza; pre and post Marilyn's death. Personally I would've liked to have seen a little more impact and empathy in Heller's character and an overall change in the books tone given the event shifted the books direction but it's a relatively minor gripe given the overall quality of the story. I particularly liked the way Heller's character seamlessly infused himself into the starlets life, it's like Heller was fact, not fiction in this historical crime. 

I listened to the audio edition, narrated by Dan Jon Miller, who did a nice job of pulling off Heller and the supporting cast, however his 'Marilyn' took some getting used to. 

Despite being book 15 in the series, Bye, Bye, Baby reads perfectly well as a standalone. I've only read a handful of books in this series and none in any real chronological order and didn't ever feel like I was missing out on some key character interaction or series-long sub plot. 

My rating: 4/5 stars.  

Pick of the Month [November 2017]

November was the first month this year where I planned my reading list. Usually I don't like to do this as I'd rather go where the mood takes me but it worked and I read some really good books plus cleared out some long stayers from the TBR.

Blog Post: What I'm Reading This November

I read (or listened to) 12 books for the month, which is down from previous months but I did get through some big books (Swan Song by Robert McCammon was over 800 pages).

Of the 12, I rated 7 5 stars - a pretty good result for the month with the standout being Artemis by Andy Weir. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Rosario Dawson.

Read the review here: Artemis by Andy Weir

Other highlights include the following in no particular order:

Darktown by Thomas Mullena historical crime fiction book packed full of interesting characters, a great plot, and thought provoking sub themes

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. SchwabThe second book in the Shades of Magic series. 

Swan Song by Robert McCammon This post nuclear fall-out tome is what horror is meant to be - real world plausibility with cleverly infused fantastical elements 

Borne by Jeff Vandermeera deeply driven character story that uses a post Extension Level Event setting to its advantage

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Review: A CONJURING OF LIGHT by V.E. Schwab

Publisher Titan
Length 666 pages
Format softcover
Published 2017
Series Shades of Magic #3
My Copy Provided by the publisher


Great book. Great series. Give me more. 

The third book in the Shades of Magic series is just as good as, if not better than the previous books, which is saying something given I rated both books 5/5 stars.

A Conjuring of Light sees the powerful black magician / god, Osaron make his way into Kell's Red London with the single aim to take everything as his. He's an ambitious and crazy powerful villain who reads as being unstoppable despite powerful magicians Lilia, Alucard, Kell, and another unlikely Antari joining forces to rid Red London of his plague of persuasive power. 

Few books, especially series-based books have that wow factor. Those moments which make you stop and really appreciate the craft, the plotting, the characters, basically everything. They are more than shock and awe moments and A Conjuring of Light has those in spades. I won't go into detail as to viod major spoilers but needles to say, there are great passages aplenty - fans of the series will not be disappointed.   

My rating: 5/5 stars - I hope we see more of these characters. There's also so much potential to explore White, Gray and Black London in particular. Fingers crossed this isn't the last we've seen of the Antari.  

You can read my review of book 2, A Gathering of Shadows by clicking on the link below:

Review: A GATHERING OF SHADOWS by V.E Schwab