Sunday, September 30, 2018

News: Help choose the title of the next Quarry book

In a recent email from Hard Case Crime, editor Charles Ardai is giving readers of the popular hitman series by Max Allan Collins, a chance to name the next title in the long running (and awesome series). 

From the email:

Max Allan Collins is hard at work writing his next Quarry novel for us. In it, Quarry is going to discover that he's been marked for death himself and is the target of a contract assigned to another professional killer. The question is what to call the book.

In case you're wondering, the choices are:

Here are some reviews of my favorites in the series so far:

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Review: BELIEVE ME by J.P. Delaney

Publisher Quercus
Length 383 pages
Format softcover
Published 2018
Series Standalone 
My Copy provided by the publisher

My Review

A complex and addictive crime thriller. 

Believe Me will end up being one of my top crime reads this year (2018). The story is vice-like in its ability to latch onto the readers attention and not let go. 

Claire is a struggling actress from London who is hoping to make it big in the land of opportunities; only, the lights of Broadway don't have that same sparkle and promise as seen from afar and gigs in this profession don't come cheaply. You either sell your talents to those with influence or sell yourself. 

When a unique job offering comes her way, Claire, somewhat reluctantly accepts; she's to pick up men suspected of cheating on their significant others and capture evidence to take back to the suspecting party. It's a modern day honey trap that she quickly excels at. 

It's at this point the story takes a dark and deadly turn following the murder of a client with the police looking at Claire as a suspect. 

Que a complex narrative, head games, and twists aplenty as author JP Delaney plays with the readers mind as easily as a cat does a ball of string. 

My rating: 5/5. I read Believe Me in two sittings - which would've been one had I not started reading it late at night. Just a great, clever piece of crime fiction that has me yearning for more. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

News: Titan Books Announce DC Novels

Not sure how I missed this one, but in late August Titan Books announced a suite of three novels featuring some of the more iconic characters in the DC superhero stable including Joker, Harley Quinn, and of course, the Dark Night himself, Batman. 

The novels will be written by some top notch crime authors including personal favorites, Christa Faust and Garry Phillips, as well as others I'm not so familiar with including Paul Dini, Pat Cadigan, and Greg Cox.

The original series of novels will be adaptations of some of the most popular stories in DC's Batman history including The Killing Joke and The Court of Owls. With the first book, The Killing Joke slated for a September 2018 publication. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Review: SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY by Mur Lafferty

Publisher Century
Length 304 pages
Format softcover
Published 2018
Series Star Wars (Disney cannon)
My Copy I bought it

My Review

The expanded adaptation of the feature film, Solo, provides added depth to the first Stars Wars heist-like film, broadening an already entertaining story and immersing the reader in the ever expanding Star Wars universe. 

Without giving away spoilers, we learn more of Qi'ra's difficult time having being sold to slavers and ending up in the criminal gang Crimson Dawn in between leaving and being reunited with Han Solo. While also getting some character perspective to the action orientated scenes during Solo's time as a member of the Empire. 

The plot is pretty straight forward and ties in nicely with the original trilogy feel. The early Han Solo is a little less battle hardened and tends to rely more on luck than wit but all the hallmarks of the character he eventually becomes are there.

Both Lando and Beckett were key cogs in the film, however in the novelization, they read as bit players with Lando providing little more than a cameo - a stark contrast to how I felt after watching the film. Perhaps this is more about the way I read the characters rather than the majority. 

I'd rate Solo smack bang in the middle of the unofficial Solo trilogy of books with Most Wanted as easily the best book and Last Shot rounding out the three. 

My rating: 4.5/5. Chances are, you'll enjoy the book if you enjoyed the film. Without having previously seen the locales and characters on the big screen, I think the novelization would've felt a little less polished, the kessel run in particular. That said, I enjoyed the added depth the book provided and would easily recommend this to fans of the Disney Cannon. 

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Related review:

Star Wars: Most Wanted by Ray Carson

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Read to me - crime series to listen to

Over the past couple of years I've really gotten into audiobooks. They're great for the work commute, lunchtime walk, or at the gym. When you want to block out the world's rambling white noise and take a break from the daily grind, they're great. 

In 2017 I listened to 36 audiobooks. This year so far (to Sept 2018) I've listened to 17. Along the way I've discovered some great books and have uncovered a bunch of new series. 

Here's a list of some of crime fiction series, for one reason or another, I recommend picking up as audiobooks; all have fantastic narrators which add a little something to the stories. 

Note. the below refer to the Australian audiobook editions, which means US and other countries may have a different narrator and/or,  publish date.

In no particular order:

The Bonnie series by Jenni L. Walsh; the untold story of how wholesome Bonnelyn Parker became half of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde murder couple. 

Books in series: 2
Latest book: Side by Side (published 2018) (review)
Narrated by: Susan Bennett
Average listening length: 12hrs approx.
Genre: historical crime fiction

The IQ series by Joe Ide; Isaiah Quintabe, a resident of one of LA's toughest neighborhoods uses his exceptional intellect to solve the crimes the LAPD ignores.

Books in series: 2 (3rd to be published in October 2018)
Latest book: Righteous (published 2017) (review)
Narrated by: Sullivan Jones
Average listening length: 10hrs approx.
Genre: crime fiction

The Sean Duffy series by Adrian McKinty; Sean Duffy is a detective sergeant in 1980's Northern Ireland, the series was intended to be the 'trouble trilogy' but, like other readers/listeners, I'm happy the author continued to expand on Duffy's entertaining stories. 

Books in the series: 6
Latest book: Police at the Station and They Don't Look Friendly (published 2017) (review)
Narrated by: Gerald Doyle
Average listening length: 10hrs approx. 
Genre: crime fiction

The Darktown series by Thomas Mullen; A police procedural set in Atlanta in the late 1940's which follows a group of black officers hired by the police department; not only do they have crime to contend with, the officers also have to deal with a predominately white male police force who are hostile towards their fellow officers to say the least. 

Books in the series: 2
Latest book: Lightning Men (published 2018) (review)
Narrated by: Andre Holland (Darktown), Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Lightning Men)
Average listening length: 12hrs 30mins
Genre: crime fiction

The Detective Craine series by Guy Bolton; A private detective series initially set in 1930's Hollywood featuring fixer Jonathan Craine. The second book (to be published in October 2018) moves the series 8 years ahead to 1947 Hollywood. 

Books in the series: 1 (2nd to be published October 2018)
Latest book: The Pictures (published 2017) (review)
Narrated by: Adam Sims (The Pictures), William Hope (The Syndicate - not yet released) 
Average listening length: 12hrs
Genre: crime fiction 

The Renee Ballard series by Michael Connelly; introduces a new young driven female detective in the LAPD ranks who works the night shift in Hollywood, beginning many investigation but completing few. The series ties in with Connelly's renowned Harry Bosch series. The second book, Dark Sacred Night is due to be published in October 2018.  

Books in the series: 1 (2nd to be published October 2018)
Latest book: The Late Show (published 2017) (review)
Narrated by: Katherine Moening
Average listening length: 9hrs 20mins 
Genre: crime fiction 

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Review: SYDNEY NOIR edited by John Dale

Publisher XOUM (an imprint of Brio Books)
Length 256 pages
Format paperback

Published 2018
Series Akashic Noir Anthologies 
My Copy Provided by the publisher

My Review

The first Australian book in the Akashic Noir series, Sydney Noir, envelopes the reader in a shroud of criminal activity, where in that blackness beats the dark hearts of men and women prone to violence, and are well versed in deceit to aide their deadly deeds.   

Spread across Sydney city and its surroundings, Sydney Noir brings murder to the doorsteps of Balmain, Redfern, Newtown, and even the iconic Sydney Harbor and more through a delectable dish of diverse stories encompassing family drama and murder in The Birthday Present by Mandy Sayer, drug abuse and the brutal consequences of over indulgence in Black Cul-De-Sac by Phillip McLaren, and the perils of love and lust in Leigh Redhead's scary-good short story The Transmutation of Sex

The anthology is a celebration of Aussie crime, with authors slicing up the Sydney city crime dominion into chewy, bloody morsels of fiction each just as mouth watering as the last.

Some of my favorites include the aforementioned Black Cul-De-Sac by Phillip McLaren, The Transmutation of Sex by Leigh Redhead as well as cleverly written The Passenger by Kirsten Tranter, The Patternmaker by Julie Koh, and the patient payoff in the aptly titled Slow Burn by Gabrielle Lord to name a few, but really, you could throw a dart at any of the stories in this collection and be impressed. 

My rating: 5/5 stars. It's great to see the Noir anthology make landfall in Australia. Sydney, with Kings Cross as its heart is a perfect destination for this anthology. Highly recommended. 

Sydney Noir is due to be published in Australia in December 2018 by XOUM, an imprint of Brio Books.

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Related Links

Publisher website

Book Link Sydney Noir

Akashic Noir books in the series

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Review: 101 by Tom Pitts

Publisher Down & Out Books
Length 318 pages
Format ebook 

Published 2018
Series standalone
My Copy provided by the publisher

My Review

Comprising elements of rural noir akin to Daniel Woodrell with characters reminiscent of those in 
Anthony Neil Smith's Billy Lafitte series, 101 by Tom Pitts is a must read neo-noir.

Jerry on the run from a biker gang in San Francisco heads to the hills, seeking refuge with him mom's old friend, Vic, a prominent pot farmer with a dark and dangerous past. 

Unbeknownst to Vic, playing host to this guy on the lamb is more trouble than its worth. As the reason for Jerry's exile slowly bleeds out over the course of the story so does the blood of his protectors, along with that of his own mother.

Bikers, Russian drug lords, and the San Francisco PD all want a piece of the action in what is a very entertaining and well paced novel. 

Bullets fly, bodies drop, pot is smoked, and booze is consumed in a violent romp hidden in the Humboldt Country hills. 

My rating: 5/5 stars, 101 hits you like a fist to the face, leaving you with a sloppy punch-drunk grin, happily awaiting round two. 

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Book Review: HUSTLE by Tom Pitts

Monday, September 10, 2018

Review: SUNSET by Christos Gage & Jorge Lucas

Publisher Image Comics
Length 160 pages
Format hardcover
Artist Jorge Lucas
Published 2012
Series standalone
My Copy I bought it 

My Review

"I can see the end of the road. And it ends with me dead."

"But it ends with a lot of other people dead first."

Nick Bellamy, a former mob enforcer, now in his late 70's has his peaceful existence shattered when bullets break the glasshouse he had for so long hoped the mob wouldn't throw stones at.

With his elderly wife caught in the hail of death and his life in his own hands, Nick, who had never forgotten the feel of a crushed windpipe beneath his palms, once again revels in the violence that comes with his form of vengeance. 

Sunset is all I could hope for from a revenge fueled romp and then some. Author Christos Gage balances out the bloodshed with some comedic moments which not only provide a brief form of respite from the bullets and bashing's but also help the characters grow and appear more real. 

Sure Nick is a bad guy but he's damn fun to cheer for. You know he's done wrong and been wronged yet all this makes it right. Sunset isn't so much about redemption as it is finding closure through the cross-hairs yet the redemption and redeeming themes become more prevalent throughout adding an extra layer of depth to what is an already solid story. 

My rating: 5/5 stars - as per the intro by Duane Swierczynski, this is geezer-noir at its finest. 

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Related read: 

Richard Stark's Parker - The Hunter, adapted by Darwyn Cooke 

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Pick Up A Pulp [45]: PLAY, NOW, KILL LATER by Carter Brown

Rafe Kendall is a successful playwright who has made millions off his talent and skill to be a renowned and respected person in the entertainment industry, all of which is thrown into jeopardy when a talent agent threatens to expose him as a fraud; with concrete evidence that Kendall has plagiarized one of his most successful plays.

Of course, the allegations could all 'go-away' if Kendall is willing to pay a hefty price to keep his secret safe. 

Sounds like blackmail, smells like blackmail...

Enter PI to the stars, Rick Holman; hired by Kendall to locate the blackmailer and clear Kendall's name.

Play Now, Kill Later doesn't feel like the typical Rick Holman novel but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable. The PI to the stars has to literately feel his way around a bevy of females all suspected of playing a part in the allegation against Kendall and all have something to gain by doing so.

Riding / feeling his way through each bump and curve, Rick Holman eventually achieves a climax that is sure to rock the playwrights' world. 

My rating: 4/5 stars. For the most part, this was a pretty straight forward read and then the whodunit aspect really kicked into high gear making Play Now, Kill Later one of the more enjoyable Carter Brown mysteries.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Review: REDEMPTION POINT by Candice Fox

Publisher Random House
Length 432 pages
Format ebook 

Published 2018
Series Crimson Lake #2
My Copy I bought it

My Review

The follow-up to 2017's Crimson Lake is just as good as, if not better than the original - and that's saying something. 

A murder with robbery as motive - or something more sinister? Once you peal back the velvet curtain of secrecy, you can't un-see what lurks behind...

Redemption Point reunites readers with the unconventional tropical Queensland Private Detective's in Amanda Pharrell and Ted Conkaffey who have been asked to look into a case involving the grisly murder of two people in a pub. 

A hefty portion of the book is dedicated to the fallout of Ted's wrongfully accused abduction of a 13 year old which not only cost him his family, but his job and friends. Despite being loaded with emotional baggage, the story never feels weighted down and speeds through at a somewhat frenetic pace as the plot threads weave in and out of one another towards a criminally-good climax.  

The Queensland place-setting really comes into play with author Candice Fox doing a great job at creating a distinct tropical Australian feel full of humidity, horror, and heinous crime. 

My rating: 5/5 stars. Two for two - this dynamic duo is fast becoming one of my favorite private detective combos.

You can read my review of Crimson Lake by clicking on the link below.

Review: Crimson Lake by Candice Fox

Friday, September 7, 2018

Review: GREENLIGHT by Benjamin Stevenson

Publisher Penguin / Michael Joseph 
Length 368 pages
Format softcover 

Published 2018
Series standalone
My Copy provided by the publisher

My Review

A thriller with a killer ending.

The docu-drama sub genre of crime fiction is really starting to take off and Greenlight by Benjamin Stevenson gives Aussies readers a taste of the local flavor. 

When documentary film maker Jack Quick gets his 15 minutes of fame by assisting in overturning a flimsy guilty conviction of winemaker, Curtis Wade, for the murder of grape-picker Eliza Dacey, he had no idea the fame and spotlight would turn his life upside down. 

Questions later arise as to Curtis' innocence following another murder with a similar MO shortly after his release which sparks renewed interest in the Eliza Dacey murder. 

The constant whodunit guessing game throughout is well written and executed. I certainly didn't pick the perp and was surprised by the extra level of depth written into the ending too.

I enjoyed the small town setting, where vineyards ripen the community, or poison them as is the case here. 

My rating: 4/5, I didn't see the twists coming, I only wish they got there sooner. The distinctly Australian feel is a bonus. A must for fans of true-crime TV shows and podcasts. 

Related book review:  Don't Believe It by Charlie Donlea

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Pick of the Month [August 2018]

I read 14 books in August which is basically the same volume as the previous 5 months or so. One thing that is trending downward is my ebook reading. No real reason for this, I just prefer physical books. In August I read just the one ebook on my kindle and it just happens to be my pick of the month in The Upper Hand by Johnny Shaw. If you've not read it, I strongly suggest heading to Amazon and grabbing a copy asap; this book is funny as hell.

Pick of the Month [July 2018]

New releases: I read 5 books published this year, the aforementioned book by Johnny Shaw, along with;

Hellbent by Greg Hurwitz - the third thriller in the Evan Smoak series

The Folded Land by Tim Lebbon - the second book in the Relics series (which is a great follow-up to the very good, Relics) 

The Valley by Steve Hawke - a rural Australian general crime story with literary overtones

Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott - yet another 5 star read by one of my favorite authors. I listened to the audiobook and was once again blown away. 

Some of my other reading other highlights include:

Triggerman by Walter Hill - a graphic novel of gangsters published by Titan Comics / Hardcase Crime

Get Capone by Jonathan Eig - true crime in prohibition Chicago about the rise and fall of Al Capone

Lastly a brief update on my 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge - I set out to read a conservative (for me) 120 books in 2018. At the end of August I'm sitting on 122, goal complete :-) 

Monday, September 3, 2018

Review: THE GIRLS OF MURDER CITY by Douglas Perry

Publisher Viking
Length 304 pages
Format hardcover
Published 2010
Series standalone
My Copy I bought it

My Review

The Girls of Murder City provides an interesting insight into the prohibition era murderesses who painted Chicago red with their wares and bullets throughout the 1920's; leaving blushed faces on the living and blood spatter on the dead.

Douglas Perry's true crime account of the real-life characters who inspired the Chicago musical is as entertaining as it is head-shake-inducing at the ludicrous laws which walked these dangerous dames. 

Primarily centered around Chicago crime reporter Maurine Watkins, 'the prettiest woman ever charged with murder in Chicago' Beulah Annan, and 'queen of Chicago's cabarets..Cook County's most stylish murderess' Belva Gaetner, The Girls of Murder City chronicles a time where a murderess, if pretty could avoid conviction, shining a spotlight on the farce that was the justice system in the age of bootleggers, mobsters, and frustrated reporters (there were 6 daily newspapers in Chicago during this time).

The vast majority of the book is loaded with interesting factoids about the inhabitants of 'murderess row' while the later stages focus on the play Chicago developed by Maurine Watkins and her subsequent years away from Second City which I didn't find as interesting.

My rating: 4/5 stars. The Girls of Murder City is a book which can be read in isolation from the musical, Chicago. If you're looking for something a little different to the mobster tales of prohibition Chicago but still want the grit that comes with that era, then this one is for you. 

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Review: GIVE ME YOUR HAND by Megan Abbott

Publisher Little Brown & Company
Length 11hrs 2mins
Format audiobook
Narrator Chloe Cannon

Published 2018
Series standalone
My Copy I bought it

My Review

Megan Abbot has a wonderful ability to convey the inner most desires of her characters in a way which feels like the reader is peaking beneath a curtain into the watery pools of their emotions.

Give Me Your Hand is noir without the sepia splash and minus the mysterious fedora-wearing character. In their place are test tubes, lab mice, and vibrant characters full of life who are bursting at the seams with secrets and ambition. 

Under a microscope, Kit Owens and Diane Fleming share a thirst for science; a lust for knowledge, and a need to become someone. They also share a secret which plagues both from their formative years of teenage angst through to their professional place in the world of pharmaceuticals.

A secret worth killing to keep. 

My rating: 5/5 stars. Megan Abbott has crafted a tension-filled novel that threatens to boil at any moment, each chapter threatens the status quo. These character are dangerous and are portrayed as such. 
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