Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Review: LIGHTNING MEN by Thomas Mullen

Publisher Little Brown
Length 12hrs 53mins
Format softcover
Published 2018 (audio edition)
Series Darktown #2
My Copy I bought it

The follow-up to Darktown continues to explore the themes prevalent in its predecessor with racism and an unjust criminal system at the forefront of a broad socio-economic 1950's period piece. 

This time round, the crime element comes secondary to the troubles the 'black' police officers have to endure in a primarily 'white' Atlanta police force in the 1950's. Author Thomas Mullen once again goes to great lengths to recreate that feeling of oppression and suppression embedded in his crime fiction which blurs the lines of fact and fiction.

A note on the audiobook; Yahya Abdul-Mateen II narrated the Australian audiobook release and did a great job, while a different narrator to Darkwon, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II managed to bring the same level of intensity as Andre Holland who narrated the first book in the Darktown series. 

My rating; 5/5 stars, this series, along with Adrian McKinty's Sean Duffy novels is fast becoming my favorite crime fiction to read. I cant wait to see where this story goes next.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Pick Up A Pulp [37]: QUARRY'S CUT by Max Allan Collins

Quarry's Cut is pitch perfect pulp fiction from beginning to blood-soaked end. 

In the fourth installment in the long-running series, Quarry sans Broker, finds himself smack-bang in the middle of a hit all too close to home. When he learns that a former partner in the murder game is in town and sleeping with the niece of an acquaintance it feels too coincidental to be anything but purposeful. Still raw from an earlier attempt on his life, Quarry immediately goes on the attack, confronting his former partner and learning the true target; a pornographer who is shooting his swan-song in a nearby cottage.

Quarry's Cut contains more elements of a true murder mystery than previous installments thanks to a mass murder at the pornographers cottage. Fingers and guns point in varying directions until suspects are eliminated, either by investigation or death, steadily building towards a crescendo of violence. 

My rating: 3/5 stars. I really liked the first portion of Quarry's Cut prior to the plot shifting towards the pornographers cottage, that said; if you're after a quick pulp, this book certainly fits the bill, however as a long time Quarry reader, I just wanted a little more depth to the story. 

You can read my review of Quarry's Deal (Quarry #3) by clicking on the link below:

Pick Up A Pulp [36]: QUARRY'S DEAL by Max Allan Collins

Friday, June 22, 2018

Review: HUSK by David Zeltserman

Publisher Severn House Publishers
Length 240 pages
Format ebook
Published 2018
Series standalone
My Copy provided by the publisher

There is a simmering danger lurking around every corner; an omnipresent threat of violence and bloodletting bubbling away through each chapter as Charlie Husk, a character like no other, struggles with the person he is and the person he wants to be.

Husk is contemporary horror; more romance, self discipline and discovery over overt scare tactics and gory scenes. The horror is subtle - until it isn't. 

Charlie Husk is a cannibal who falls in love with a New York girl after rescuing her from her dead-beat boyfriend. However, his cravings for human meat slowly take over and the all too easy violence steadily escalates towards a conclusion you could see coming but couldn't tear your eyes from. 

The steady plot pace and Charlie's modern world naivety suit the style of novel and add to the underlying tension making Husk a hard book to put down.

My rating: 4/5 stars. Whilst I don't enjoy romance novels, I actually liked that element to the story with Charlie and Jill forming a unique bond which compliments the darker plot elements perfectly.  

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Pick Up A Pulp [36]: QUARRY'S DEAL by Max Allan Collins

Quarry is to Max Allan Collins as Parker is to Westlake. A likable, somewhat cult-like figure that lives on the wrong side of the law. In Quarry's Deal, the third installment in the hit-man series, Quarry tracks down a fellow operative with designs to make some cash by informing the target of his impending demise. From there Quarry moves with brutal efficiency, thrusting himself in the assassin’s life in more ways than one on track towards a nice payday. 

This is perhaps one of the more calculated and cold Quarry novels I’ve read. Max Allan Collins paints a perfect picture of the subtle yet shockingly effective kill – one of the hallmarks of the series. It was an interested concept; pitting Quarry against his female equivalent, and along with the customary sex came a character dynamic which added some nice depth to the story.  

Like the other Quarry books I found myself unable to put it down and read it in a single sitting (even the second time round on the reread). There is something about Quarry and his method that intrigues and addicts. No longer a traditional hitman, his self made occupation relies upon tracking assassins (for lack of a better word) and dealing for their targets lives. It’s an interesting concept that doesn’t date. 

My rating 4/5 stars. A must for fans of Quarry and the HCC series.

You can read my review of Quarry's List (book #2) by clicking the link below.

Pick Up A Pulp [35]: Quarry's List by Max Allan Collins

Friday, June 15, 2018

Review: THE ESCAPE ROOM by Megan Goldin

Publisher Michael Joseph
Length 361 pages
Format softcover
Published 2018
Series standalone
My Copy provided by the publisher

The Escape Room is a perfect balance of white-collar and psychological crime which plays on the one percent's penchant for a privileged life where lust, greed, and murder equals wealth. 

Four top investment bankers are lured into an empty building under the guise of a demand by the company's human resources department, presumably to discuss a round of firings giving the company's recent poor performance. Upon entering the elevator, the four, all consumed by their phone screens are oblivious to the fact that the door closing symbolizes the end of their careers as they know it.

Enter the escape room; a team-building exercise? A twisted game? Or something more sinister? 

Author Megan Goldin cleverly crafts a white hot slow burn of a story filled with deceptive characters and murderous twists in the confines of a claustrophobic elevator.

My rating: 4/5 stars. I thought The Escape Room was a lot of fun to read. Sara Hall, the lead character is personable and easy to relate to, while the high powered investment bankers each have plenty of backstory and read 'real'.

You can read my earlier review of The Girl in Kellers Way, the debut novel by Megan Goldin by clicking on the link below"

Review: THE GIRL IN KELLERS WAY by Megan Goldin   

Monday, June 11, 2018

Pick Up A Pulp [35]: QUARRY'S LIST by Max Allan Collins

QUARRY’S LIST opens with the swift and ice cold professional killing of an intruder inside Quarry’s home. The midnight attack, the result of a former associate in the murder of hire business looking to take out any competition that may stem the takeover of the Brokers former empire. Not wasting time, Quarry grills the back-up man from the attempted hit for information which leads him to a confrontation and subsequent sit down with the Brokers lawyer, Curtis Brooks, and Ash, a former partner of Quarry’s. 

Originally titled THE BROKERS WIFE, QUARRY’S LIST is aptly titled twice over with both capturing the theme of the second installment in the hitman series. The Brokers wife, Carrie, plays a huge role as she is thrust into the violent world her now deceased husband so flourished by virtue of some over zealous and ambitious business associates. While a 'list' supposedly in Quarry’s possession detailing the Broker's hired guns contact information is coveted by the same associates hoping for a one-two punch in taking over the business while also scoring a monetary windfall by eradicating Carrie in order to obtain her inheritance.

It’s in QUARRY’S LIST that Quarry takes a turn of direction, using his former associates as form of revenue:

“…there were other Brokers. Most of the hit men (and women) named here would be working again, soon, if not already, for new Brokers. If I picked a name from the list, followed whoever it was to a job, found out who the potential victim was, I could go to that potential victim and offer my services. If my offer was rejected, no skin off my ass; let the asshole die, it’s up to him.” 

My rating: 3/5 stars. QUARRY'S LIST contains one of the most mouth watering twists I've read across all the Hard Case Crime books and had just the same impact on the re-read. 

Monday, June 4, 2018

Review: LAST SHOT by Daniel Jose Older

Publisher Century
Length 344 pages
Format softcover
Published 2018
Series Star Wars (Disney cannon)
My Copy I bought it

After watching Solo: A Star Wars Story, I was pumped to read Last Shot. Lando and Han have such great screen chemistry in the original trilogy, and with this story being set around two years after Return of the Jedi I was hoping for the prose to capture some of that scoundrel and swagger and I wasn't let down. 

The interactions between the two key cogs in this story play out just like the new Solo film. The author does a great job at transposing them from the screen to the printed page. One thing that didn't quite make the transition so smoothly is the man-of-few-words persona of Han. He's not a guy who talks about his feelings, and that was apparent early on in Last Shot, even with son Ben, yet the need to express his struggles with conveying his feelings to his family in Ben and Leia became repetitive and unnecessary, particularly in the later stages of the book. 

The story itself if split between three timelines; present day (2 years post Return of the Jedi), 10 years prior, and 15 years prior. For the most part, this was an unnecessary distraction which only served to introduce the story's big bad in Fyzen Gor and highlight the fact that both Han and Lando had previously stolen a droid-controlling device - the Phylanx Redux, the same device which is at the center of the present day story. 

The plot it pretty simple; Fyzen Gor, a super smart hybrid organic-droid character wants to use the Phylanx Redux to control the droids of the universe to overthrown their organic oppressors. It's up to Han and Lando to stop him.

Fyzen Gor is a great character and perhaps the best thing about this book aside from the colorful characterisation of Lando Calrissian. Han just didn't read right and the bit players across the galaxy didn't do all that much to contribute to the story in any meaningful way. 

My rating: 3/5 stars, Last Shot is worth the price alone to read of Fyzen Gor, while comic book buffs will get a kick out of seeing Sana (pictured below). Hard core Star Wars fans will want to pick this up, casual reads can take it or leave it. 

Friday, June 1, 2018

Pick of the Month [May 2018]

Just like last month, I read 14 books, however I didn't hit that 5-star mark anywhere near as often in May. 

That said, I did read some great books which included the graphic novel adaptation of The Hunter by Richard Stark, adapted by Darywn Cooke and the second book in the Broken Well Trilogy, Destiny's Rift by Sam Bowing - bonus points as it was also a book I ticked off my Mount TBR list

Speaking of which...

My book of the month, The Devil in the Marshalsea by Antonia Hodgson; a historical crime set in a debtors gaol in late 1700's London. Published in 2014, it'd been on my tbr shelf for 4 years and was another of the books on my Mount TBR challenge page. Glad I finally got around to it. 

Some of the other books I really enjoyed include the following in no particular order:

A Lesson in Violence by Jordan Harper (crime)

Getting Carter by Nick Triplow (non-fiction)

Noir by Christopher Moore (crime/humor)