Saturday, August 25, 2018

Review: THE VALLEY by Steve Hawke

Publisher Fremantle Press
Length 256 pages
Format softcover
Published 2018
Series standalone
My Copy Provided by the publisher


My Review


'Us Walkers've got secrets an' lies in our blood. I'm not sayin' that's a good thing or a bad thing, it's just how we are. We keep things close...


'You're the last one... The last one, an' the first one not caught up in the secrets an' lies...At least not till now.'

The Valley is a multi generation epic seeded in blood spilled and seeped into an unforgiving land and then shrouded in secrecy.

Set predominately in Western Australia's Kimberley region, They Valley tells a powerful story of family, love, loss, and what it means to find yourself. 

For Two Bob Walker, the son of a white man and Aboriginal woman his land and family are everything, but secrets have haunted him for a generation or more. 

When his son in-law Andy and Grandson Dancer find there way back to him from the big smoke, the ghosts in the closet unearth a painful past.

Distinctly Australian, The Valley is part family drama, part crime and all journey and discovery, full of unique characters and an underlying tension that tightens and tightens until a story from Two Bob releases it all. 

Note. I recommended reading The Valley in paperback to easily access the frequently-flipped to Family Tree, which was useful in the early and middle stages of the book.  

Friday, August 24, 2018

Review: THE FOLDED LAND by Tim Lebbon

Publisher Titan
Length 336 pages
Format paperback
Published 2017
Series Relics #2 
My Copy provided by the publisher


My Review
In a world where mythical creatures traverse the realm of storybook fiction into the real world, little separates the horror from human with the spilling of blood a commonality all too thirstily explored in the follow-up to 2017's Relics, The Folded Land.

A collective of beasts; both magnificent and malicious accompanied by a few trusted humans play a deadly game of and mouse as a small contingent of Kin seek to dethrone mankind from the top of the predatory food chain.

The Folded Land follows on from the events of Relics and continues the 'relic' theme in a creative way. The first book looked a relics as a black-market collectors item, whereas The Folded Land, takes it to the extreme with fresh kin appendages being sought out for nefarious purposes. 

My rating: 4/5 stars. The concept is great and I love the way the mystical character norm is flipped on its head. The Folded Land is a top notch follow-up to Relics.  

You can read my review of Relics by click here



Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Pick Up A Pulp [44]: KILL NOW, PAY LATER by Robert Terrall

The third book to feature Private Investigator Ben Gates is a fun pulp which puts the PI in a perilous predicament after being drugged on the job - thanks to drinking from a coffee pot containing more than just caffeine. 

Hired to guard wedding presents for a wealthy couple, Gates wakes from his drug-induced slumber to find a couple of dead bodies and a cop pointing the finger firmly in Gates' direction as a key suspect. Additionally there's a large sum of cash missing; Gates knows he's got to work to a) clear his name, b) catch the killer(s), and c) find the missing bundle of cash.  

Accessible to new readers, Kill Now, Pay Later has all the hallmarks of a 1960's era pulp; dangerous and devious dames, a web of suspects, and a protagonist who finds himself irresistible to members of the opposite sex. 

The plot splinters off into many directions as the investigation lands Gates in hotter and hotter water but author Robert Terrall manages to keep all the threads tied together, wrapping up the mystery in a tight bundle at the end.

My rating: 4/5 stars. This was a re-read which still hit all the right notes the second time around. 



Monday, August 20, 2018

This Years Best Crime Fiction and True Crime (so far) [Published 2018]

I love book lists so why not post my top true crime and crime fiction reads of the year so far? 

Here's last years midyear and end of year posts

Now on to 2018. Of the 110+ books I've read this year, around 30% of those were published in 2018, a stat I'm pretty happy with given I've made more of an effort this year to keep in touch with the new books fresh on the shelves. I've also made a dent in my Mount TBR Challenge too which has introduced a great way to read those books which have been stuck on the shelves forever and a day.

For my midyear 'best of' crime list I'm breaking it up into three categories;

Fiction (prose)

Fiction (graphic novel)

True Crime

Whilst I could easily fit about 3 times as many books onto this list I stuck with books which I'd rated 5 stars on Goodreads. There's a bunch of 4 and 4.5 star reads which were unlucky to miss out. 

Top crime fiction (prose) reads so far:




Punishment by Scott J. Holliday (Thomas & Mercer) 
Punishment introduces a cool concept into the dark world of crime fiction; a machine which enables law enforcement to temporarily transpose the dying memories of murder victims into their own corpus of memories. The criminals in the fictional (future?) world have acclimatized to this new wave of policing and now wear masks to hide their identity, which means good old fashioned policing is still paramount to catching a killer.

The Cyclist by Anthony Neil Smith (Bastei Entertainment) 
A modern-day honey trap with sucks you in right from the start. The characters are well rounded and the linear plot, straightforward and as sharp as a knife blade. To use a somewhat corny term the book is 'all thriller, no filler'. 

Don't Believe It by Charlie Donlea (Bantam)
Don't Believe It is a perfect fit for true crime documentary and podcast buffs; the novel has all the hallmarks of an addictive TV show playing out in real time, and is enhanced by an easy flowing narrative which not only captures the case as it unfolds but also captures the character of those involved, either directly or indirectly. 

Sunburn by Laura Lippman (Isis Audiobooks)
Thought provoking with an simmering level of intensity which feels like its threatening to boil over at any moment, Sunburn reads equal parts Lisa Lutz (The Passenger) and James M Cain (The Cocktail Waitress) - suburban noir at its finest. 

The Upper Hand by Johnny Shaw (Thomas & Mercer)
The Upper Hand is a great read; both lighthearted and loaded with emotional depth. The Ucker family are unique and complex but easily readable and enjoyable. Readers who enjoy a smile with their crime must read this book. Instantly addictive and a great read all the way through.

Retribution by Richard Anderson (Scribe)
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.

Top crime fiction (graphic novel) reads so far: 


Minky Woodcock, The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini by Cynthia Von Buhler (Titan Comics / Hardcase Crime)
The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini is a visual treat for fans of pulp art and a good old fashioned murder mystery. Author and artist, Cynthia Von Buhler's slice of noir is evocative and moody; art and writing creating a cohesive narrative across the 4 issues which span this story arc. 

Normandy Gold by Megan Abbott and Alison Gaylin (Titan Comics / Hardcase Crime)
The graphic novel by authors Megan Abbott and Alison Gaylin is pure, unadulterated noir; there's no greater good or subplot device aimed at exposing political corruption or making the world a better place; Normandy walks among the sullen and grey, and that's where this story rightfully resides. 

Top true crime reads so far: 



I'll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara (Harper)
I'll Be Gone In The Dark is a haunting and disturbing book, beautifully written and densely populated with facts and footnotes all of which convey the authors fierce determination to catch a long hidden serial killer and rapist responsible for over 50 acts of unimaginable cruelty in California during the 1970's and 1980's.

Ice Nation by Jason Bray (Bonnier Publishing Australia)
Ice kills. That is the message of Ice Nation, and what better way to deliver that message than someone who has seen the affects up front and personal than author Jason Bray, a police officer tasked with bringing down a dangerous and unpredictable rural drug syndicate in the Australian state of Victoria.

The Darkest Web by Eileen Ormsby (Allen & Unwin)
The topical nature of the non-fiction peak-behind-the-curtain account of dark web warriors is not for the squeamish. The structure of the book leads the reader down a rabbit hole of murderous and unspeakable acts growing progressively darker as the digital depths of disgust unfold.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Review: GET CAPONE by Jonathan Eig

Publisher Simon and Schuster
Length 468 pages
Format softcover
Published 2011
Series standalone
My Copy I bought it


My Review

The life and times notorious Chicago gangster Al Capone throughout the roaring twenties during prohibition America have always fascinated me. 


While his rein of terror was far less than his legacy, Capone's Chicago left an everlasting impression on mainstream America and abroad; movies, books, and countless newspaper articles attest to the fact. 

Author Jonathan Eig's Get Capone is extensively researched, loaded with facts to support or debunk the fiction surrounding the bootlegger/brother owner/racetrack investor/murderer by proxy that is Al Capone. 

One of the great things about this book is the equal page time spread between the lawless and lawful which provides a powerful insight into the corrupt, the criminals, and the untouchables during a bloody time in the annals of American history.

My rating: 5/5 stars. You can't read about the roaring twenties without reading about Al Capone. Get Capone goes to great lengths to provide insight into one of the most memorable criminals in history through a reader friendly narrative that's immediately accessible to readers new to the period and those familiar with the subject matter.  

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Pick Up A Pulp [43]: UNDERSTUDY FOR DEATH by Charles Willeford

The synopsis for Understudy for Death reads like it should be a hard hitting dark piece of crime fiction where a journalist becomes entrenched in a horrific crime involving the murder suicide of a housewife and her two young children. 

However, the long lost 1960's pulp novel by Charles Willeford is anything but, with the murder suicide little more than a byline into newspaper reporter Richard Hudson's freewheeling, male chauvinistic, sex-obsessed life.

Don't get me wrong, the book is a fun read; pitch perfect pulp for fans of the likes of sleaze-pulp authors Orrie Hitt and some of the earlier, more risque' novels by Lawrence Block (writing as Sheldon Lord). 

The plot largely centers around Hudson as he drinks and sleeps his way through a series of newspaper articles whilst digging around for a window into the deceased life leading up to the unfortunate event. 

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Related pulps:

As Bad As They Come by Orrie Hitt



69 Barrow Street by Lawrence Block 


Thursday, August 16, 2018

Pick of the Month [July 2018]

I read 15 books in July, up from 14 the past 3 months; there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to this mark of consistency with page count, medium, and genre all differentiating each month. 

Pick of the Month [June 2018]

Nonetheless, July yielded another great month of books, new and some not-so new. Of the newer books (published in 2018) Retribution by Richard Anderson was my crime fiction standout while Most Wanted by Rae Carson was the best sci-fi set in the Star Wars universe I've read this year.  


Other highlights in no particular order include:

Side by Side by Jenni L Walsh - the second book in the Bonnie and Cylde series. 

Britannia Volume 1 by Peter Milligan - a graphic novel set in ancient Rome about the worlds first (fictional) detective.

The Creative Murders by Carter Brown - a 1970's pulp part of my Pick up a Pulp series of blog posts. 


Saturday, August 11, 2018

Pick Up A Pulp [42]: THE STRAWBERRY-BLONDE JUNGLE by Carter Brown

The Strawberry-Blonde Jungle (published 1979) is a Danny Boyd mystery which is written in a similar vein to the Al Wheeler books; murder, cop interplay, and a list of suspects with a lot to lose and an equal amount to gain. 

Ellie Morgan, a mobsters widow reaches out to the PI with a profile, the debonair Danny Boyd to help interpret a letter from a grave giving cryptic clues to a cache of cash. 

Before her beloved was gunned down, he stole and then hid a large amount of mob money. Preempting his death, he left instructions only Ellie could decipher in a letter which she brings to Boyd. The problem is she's got no idea what the letter means. 

Que the list of mobsters, hitmen, greedy lovers, prostitutes, and former acquaintances of the deceased lining up to locate the loot with Boyd in smack-bang in the middle. 

The Strawberry-Blonde Jungle is higher on the sleaze pulp scale than most of Cater Brown's other Danny Boyd books but it fits the tone of the tale and contributes to the cheesy feel of pulp era novel. 

My rating: 3/5 stars. The story is pretty straight forward with a bunch of interesting characters all with something to hide in the quest to find a once in a lifetime payday. Longtime readers of Carter Brown will spot that this title is a little 'off' from other Danny Boyd novels but nevertheless it's an enjoyable junk-food read for the mind. 

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


Saturday, August 4, 2018

Review: THE UPPER HAND by Johnny Shaw

Publisher Thomas & Mercer
Length 294 pages
Format ebook
Published 2018
Series standalone
My Copy provided by the publisher


My Review

The Upper Hand is a humorous crime caper which has instant appeal for readers of Carl Hiaasen and Victor Gishler. 


Three siblings, shortly after learning of their mother's death are contacted by a lawyer who swiftly advises them that their inheritance has been left to a televangelist. The trio are given a matter of days to vacate the family home. Not knowing where this sad and unexpected event leaves them, a long lost auntie arrives at the funeral promising wealth and recompense through criminal enterprise.With a degree of reluctance, the trio agree to join the Ucker clan and from there the fun really starts. 

The Upper Hand is a great read; both lighthearted and loaded with emotional depth. The Ucker family are unique and complex but easily readable and enjoyable. 

My rating: 5/5 stars. Readers who enjoy a smile with their crime must read this book. Instantly addictive and a great read all the way through. No doubt one of my top reads of 2018.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Review: SIDE BY SIDE by Jenni L. Walsh

Publisher Macmillan Audio
Length 11hrs 39mins
Format audiobook
Published 2018
Series Bonnie #2
My Copy I bought it


My Review

Before reading this review, make sure you've read Becoming Bonnie first as this will contain semi-spoilers of that book...

Side by Side picks up sometime after the events of Becoming Bonnie with Clyde in prison and Bonnie concocting a scheme to set him free either by breaking him out or by arranging a pardon. Fortunately for Bonnie, Clyde is released without bloodshed (well, at least not in the conventional manner that is...) and the two are once again reunited and on their way to infamy. 

As with Becoming Bonnie, the familiar cast of characters return to form the 'gang' in Buck (Clyde's brother) and Blanche (Bonnie closest friend); and while they aren't a gang in the traditional sense, they are a tight-knit group which look out for one another - be it a shoulder to lean on, or a gun to shoot from.  

The plot largely sees Bonnie and Clyde traversing the countryside as they rob, steal, and kill in their pursuit of peace and happiness with Bonnie's earlier aversion to violence whittling away with each passing bullet and wet thunk as it hits the target. All this bloodshed is counterbalanced by a romantic angle that showcases the devotion the two characters have for one another. 

My rating: 4/5 stars. Side by Side is a violent and well executed piece of historical fiction set along a bumpy road-trip of death and destruction. 

You can read my review of Becoming Bonnie by clicking on the link below:



Review: BECOMING BONNIE by Jenni L. Wash (narrated by Susan Bennett)