Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Pick Up A Pulp [41]: THE CREATIVE MURDERS by Carter Brown

A white-collar crime turned blood red.

When the police receive a call in the early hours of the morning from a women claiming to have a corpse cooped up in her apartment, Al Wheeler, the perennial lone wolf detective is assigned the case. None too happy about being woken from his slumber, the detective's mood quickly improves when we lays eyes on the knock-out dame who answers the door, his suspicion among other things aroused when she pleads clueless as to the alleged corpse in her apartment, swearing black and blue of having not called it in. 

Despite being the 38th book in the series, the Creative Murders, much like all the Al Wheeler novels is accessible to both long time and new readers alike.

The plot centers around a spate of murders and has the customary twists and turns which coincide with the fluid list of suspects. The linear plot and pulp styling results in  character backstories being non-existent. 

The dialogue boarders on juvenile at times and is peppered with school-yard-like banter between Wheeler, the Medical Examiner, and his boss; a common theme throughout most books featuring Wheeler (a character who would work better as a PI without the shackles of law enforcement), but it's part of the cheesy allure of the penny dreadful; junk food for the mind.  

My rating: 3/5 stars. I really enjoyed the concept; corporate espionage headhunting with murderous ramifications. Not the best of the Carter Brown books but certainty not the worst either. 

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Pick Up A Pulp [40]: THE LAST COP OUT by Mickey Spillane

Mickey Spillane's The Last Cop Out is violent, sexy, and loaded with the author's trade-mark grit. 

Originally published in 1973, the book focuses on a prominent cross-continent mob under siege by persons unknown. Naturally, conspiracy theories abound; a hostile takeover, a rival mob, a mafioso looking to clean house, or the law finally taking their courtroom justice to the streets. 

It's here where the plot gets murky, and quickly. Gill Burke is an ex-cop who hasn't burnt all his bridges on the force, while Mark Shelby is the seeming heir-apparent to the mob throne; book smart and with enough gusto to lead the mob into a violent new age. Both characters are essential pieces to the puzzle who each add a unique perspective to the power struggle.

Having read a lot of books by Mickey Spillane, I think The Last Cop Out is some of his best writing while also being some of his worst. It's this contradiction which makes the book middle-of-the-road as apposed to being something great. On one hand the prose is poetic; pitch perfect noir and back-alley brawl inspired while at other times the plot is disjointed and difficult to follow. 

My rating: 3/5 stars. Well worth the patience and persistence if noir is your niche in crime fiction. 

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Review: DEAD HEAT by Peter Cotton

Publisher Scribe
Length 298 pages
Format softcover
Published 2018
Series Darren Glass #2
My Copy provided by the publisher

In the second installment in the Darren Glass crime series, the Federal Police Detective is teamed up with a high ranking Naval intelligence officer to investigate the murder of a young Aboriginal woman found on a beach at Jervis Bay and the disappearance of a sailor from a nearby Navy outpost. 

From the outset, the murder is suspicious, not only because of the heinous nature of the crime but due to the mystery surrounding the Navy's interest in the case and how the two interlink.

Author Peter Cotton goes to great lengths to establish an interesting character dynamic between Glass and his 'Navy minder', even more so when the action heats up and the two become involved in a high octane fight for survival with outlaw bikers, radicals, and terrorists. 

Speaking of action, there are passages in Dead Heat which would rival the best thrillers; engrossing, additive and completely absorbing. There's a couple in particular which stand out involving some night time high-speed madness on the dusty outback roads and another involving a terrifying shark encounter - great stuff. 

My rating: 3.5/5 stars. I love Australian crime fiction and Dead Heat fits the bill nicely. I did find the plot meandering at times and some of the drawn-out suspense a tad irksome but overall I enjoyed reading the long awaited follow-up to Dead Cat Bounce.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Pick Up A Pulp [39]: Help I Am Being Held Prisoner by Donald Westlake

If you're looking for a gritty prison crime fiction novel turn away now, Help I Am Being Held Prisoner is pretty much the opposite; professional prankster, Harold Kunt (with an umlaut) finds himself in prison after a prank turned foul, causing multiple injuries to motorists including a couple of high powered politicians. Now he's serving time, rubbing shoulders with con men, mobsters, and violent street thugs - he's completely out of his depth and comfort zone - so how does he manage to rob a couple of banks?

Help I Am Being Held Prisoner is loaded with laughs using the trademark Westlake humor. Even the crimes committed comprise elements of jocularity which few other writers could pull off while managing to both; convey a sense of dangerous urgency and subtle satire.

While the pranks, the stop-start nature of the bank job, and the comings and goings of the prison populace grew a tad tiresome, it was a fun ride all the way through to the ending.

My rating: 3.5/5 - Westalke didn't take all his characters seriously and this book is all the better for it. Recommended for fans of Carl Hiaasen and Marc Lecard.

You can read my review of The Comedy Is Finished by clicking the link below:

Friday, July 20, 2018

Review: LIAR LIAR by James Patterson and Candice Fox

Publisher Century
Length 340 pages
Format softcover
Published 2018
Series Harriet Blue #3
My Copy provided by the publisher

Pre-review warning - do not read any further unless you have read Never Never and Fifty Fifty...

Still with me?


My Review: 

The third installment in the Detective Harriet Blue series sees the former sex crimes detective living on the lam in pursuit of her brothers killer. 

Regan Banks has taken everything from Harriet that she loved. Having grown up being bounced from foster home to foster home during her formative years; a result of being a difficult and somewhat dangerous child, the bond she shared with her brother, Sam, has been severed forcing Harriet to go rogue, turning her back on law enforcement and friends alike in a bid to fuel her thirst for vengeance. 

Unlike Never Never and Fifty Fifty, Liar Liar doesn't have the same rural Australian crime fiction feel to it given that the place-setting is largely metropolitan but that doesn't detract from the continuity nor the pop culture thrills Patterson is renowned; the Candice Fox stamp is well entrenched in this story and Liar Liar is all the better for it. 

The one thing that really stands out for me is the ending as is set an interesting new direction for the series.

My rating: 3.5 stats. Liar Liar sets a new direction for the series while providing the supporting cast of characters with enough depth and connection to the protagonist to maintain a number of future installments. 

You can read my review of Fifty Fifty by clicking the link below:

Review: FIFTY FIFTY by James Patterson and Candice Fox

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Review: RETRIBUTION by Richard Anderson

Publisher Scribe
Length 336 pages
Format softcover
Published 2018
Series Standalone 
My Copy provided by the publisher

Retribution is a blue-blooded rural crime novel which envelopes the reader in a dust encrusted film of Australia's outback dirt, complete with all the crime-caused-grit you'd expect from the genre. 

Graeme Sweetapple is a farmer who makes his living by stealing cattle and on-selling them. He also puts in some honest labor at the Stratham farm, tending their to horses and later, teaching Caroline, a former politician and wife to mining magnate Bob, how to ride. Who would've thought it would be Sweetapple's law abiding occupation which leads him down a pitch black hole he's unable to climb out of?

Retribution is a well balanced and entertaining crime novel set in the vast outback where horses, water and cattle, are among the most valuable community commodities. Coupled with greed, power, and a thirst for vengeance, the novel turns an unlikely anti-hero into a voice of power and reason through a feel-good narrative and a prolonged form of justice. 

My rating: 5/5 stars. Great characters, a distinct Australian rural feel and a compelling plot makes Retribution one of my favorite crime fiction novels of the year. Highly recommend.  

Friday, July 13, 2018

Pick of the Month [June 2018]

I read 14 books in June (for the third straight month), and whilst I only rated 3 of those books 5 stars, plenty scored 4 to round out a pretty decent month.

Some of the highlights included the newly published book by Meg Gardner, The Escape Room which I thought was a great follow-up to the authors first book, The Girl in Kellers Way, a couple of Disney cannon Star Wars books by Chuck Wendig and Christie Golden in Aftermath: Empires End (re-read) and Battlefront II: Inferno Squad, and the surprise of the month, Broken Angels by Richard K Morgan - I wasn't sure what to expect from this but really enjoyed the sequel to Altered Carbon. 

However, this month, there can only be one, and my pick of the month goes to Lightning Men by Thomas Mullen, the second book in the Darktown series. I listened to the audio version and was blown away once again by the story and engaging characters. The narrator also did a great job at bringing this book to life. 

I also read 3 of the books listed in my Mount TBR challenge including Quarry's Cut by Max Allan Collins, Souls Reckoning by Sam Bowring (the last book in the Broken Well fantasy trilogy) and the tech-fi follow-up to New Pompeii by Daniel Godfrey, Empire of Time

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Review: THE OUTSIDER by Stephen King

Publisher Hodder & Stoughton
Length 475 pages
Format softcover
Published 2018
Series Standalone / Finders Keepers #4
My Copy I bought it

The brutal and graphic murder of a young boy allegedly by his Little League coach, Terry Maitland makes Detective Ralph Anderson, who has a son similarly aged see red. With the bull rag waved, he rushes head on into the investigation, cuffing Maitland in front of a crowd in an attempt to take the monster off the street. But in his haste for a swift arrest, he overlooked an important aspect of police-work - the alibi. Terry has one, and it's air tight. 

The Outsider is stock standard Stephen King; interesting characters, surreal suspense, and murder most macabre. With the good, comes the bad, and in this case its a combination of long winded dialogue, chapters which slow the plot pace to a near standstill, and an ending which felt too daytime TV for my liking.

My rating: 3/5 stars. Stephen King writes tomes; big stories that sometimes warrant hefty word counts. This one could've been condensed considerably. Still well worth checking out for readers of crime and horror as the mash-up really worked well.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Review: STAR WARS: MOST WANTED by Rae Carson

Publisher Hardy Grant Egmont
Length 348 pages
Format softcover
Published 2018
Series Star Wars (Disney cannon)
My Copy I bought it

Set some time prior to the Solo film, Most Wanted features Han and Qi'ra before they became the charismatic characters on the screen as they struggle to eek out an existence in the sewers as members of the Lady Proxima led White Worms on the planet Corellia. 

When a position opens up as second to Lady Proxima, both Han and Qi'ra, who at this stage have little in common aside from life beneath the surface, are pitted against one another on separate missions to acquire a piece of Imperial tech which would make Lady Proxima and her gang one of the more formidable factions in the Star Wars universe. Of course, it all goes bad and Han and Qi'ra are left to fend for themselves, dodging both laser blasts and Lady Proxima's wrath. 

Most Wanted captures the essence of Han which isn't easy to do off-screen, and expands upon Qi'ra's agenda as glimpsed in the Solo film to emphasize her importance in the  Disney cannon, while also strengthening the bond between her and Han as was a focal point in the film. 

The plot is straight forward and feels like a well planned story arc in Star Wars Rebels while capturing that New Hope feel. There's no filler content, just action, great characters and that unique Star Wars geekery I love so much.

My rating: 5/5 stars. I strongly recommend watching the Solo film before reading Most Wanted as the place-setting and characters (such as Lady Proxima) are much easier to visualize. 

You can also read my review of Last Shot, the Han Solo and Lando novel set many years after the Solo film by clicking the link below.

Review: LAST SHOT by Daniel Jose Older

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Pick Up A Pulp [38]: QUARRY'S VOTE by Max Allan Collins

10 years have passed since Quarry's Cut, with the hitman having carved out a nice little existence; he's got a wife with a baby on the way, owns a dinner, and lives a life of leisure. He now reads about violence in fiction, rather than being the perpetrator with the days of taking lives, and sans Broker, saving them, well and truly over. That is, until a stranger familiar with Quarry's former occupation turns up on his doorstep with an offer of a cool million dollars to take out a presidential candidate. 

Quarry's Vote isn't as strong as the other four Quarry novels preceding it. Quarry himself is still as cold and calculated with an easy air of death emanating from his pores, however the political aspects didn't interest me.

A staple of these books are the pulp overtones and Quarry's Vote is no different; dames, distress, bullets, caskets, and Quarry wading through the mess and coming up spades, which all make for an enjoyable one-sitting read. 

You can read my review of Quarry's Cut by clicking on the link below.

Pick up a Pulp [37]: QUARRY'S CUT by Max Allan Collins
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