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) 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

GETTING CARTER; Brit Noir Fiction and Non-Fiction

Jack's Return Home, more popularly known as Get Carter by Ted Lewis is a classic noir commonly referred to as the book which birthed British noir. Getting Carter by Nick Triplow provides insight into the troubled authors life, from his early struggles at school to his rise in working on studio animation and, his eventual claim to fame - the film adaption of his debut novel starring the famous actor Michael Caine.

Getting Carter explores and exposes Ted Lewis' inner demons; the same ones which contributed to his eventual death are the same ones, one could argue, which contributed to his success (though short lived it was). 

It's a shame to see the work of Lewis years after his death get the recognition and appreciation it deserves. Genre peers are quoted throughout the book as referencing both Jack's Return Home and GBH as critical works in the crime sub genre. I, for one, really enjoyed the bleak and raw nature of Get Carter (review below) and have added both GBH and the prequel to Jack's Return Home, Jack Carter's Law to my read-list. 

This non-fiction look at the life of Ted Lewis, his rise and fall, and other pieces of work, of which he's less renowned for, is a must read for fans not only of Get Carter but for fans of noir in general. 

Book Review, Get Carter by Ted Lewis (published 2013 (first published 1970 as Jack's Return Home)):

Hard-man Jack Carter returns home to Doncaster following the unexpected death of his brother Frank. Straight away the scene doesn't seem on the level; firstly, the cause of death (Frank, drunk, allegedly drove his car of a cliff) doesn't fit given Frank hardly touched the hard stuff, secondly, Jack's bosses, the criminally inclined Les and Gerald don't want Jack putting noses out of joint down in Doncaster for fear of him endangering their criminal enterprise. 

What follows is a rampage of violence as Jack steadily draws lines through names of his former associates on the path to a kind of street justice. Sure, he can't reverse Frank's death but he can put a whole lot of hurt on those responsible.

Get Carter is the book which epitomizes British noir; the protagonist is a criminal (though we don't know what exactly he does for Les and Gerald) whose morals are questionable (he's sleeping with his boss's wife, prone to violence against women, and is happy to abuse the kindness of strangers), while the undercurrent of crime is exemplified by police corruption, prostitution, murder, assault, and under-aged pornography - all this circling the drain surrounding the death of Frank.

My rating: 4/5 stars. I enjoyed Get Carter and would've given the book 5 stars had it read as a second in a series; I felt like I was dropped into Jack's life without a lot of backstory surrounding his current employer or the seemingly meaningful relationships he has with people who crossed Frank.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Review: A LESSON IN VIOLENCE by Jordan Harper

Publisher Simon & Schuster
Length 257 pages
Format softcover
Published 2017
Series standalone
My Copy borrowed form the library 

Nate McClusky, near the end of a bid murders a member of Ayran Steel, a white supremacist gang, following a prison altercation. He’s immediately ‘green lit’ for execution along with his estranged wife/partner and 11yr old daughter on the outside. His slice of freedom soon soured by the coppery taste of blood and smell of violent retribution. 

A Lesson in Violence is a shot of adrenaline laced with speed and topped off with a liberal sprinkling of blood. The protagonist flips the hunter/prey dynamic on its head as he strives to save the lives of those closest to him. Whilst his fatherly love has always been at arm’s length, his determination and brute force nature nurtures and cultivates a relationship with daughter Polly which is endearing and true; an evolution breed by bonding over violence.

The common theme throughout is violence, both on account of the victim and perpetrator yet the more endearing qualities encompassing that father/daughter relationship and progressive path to reconciliation is what stands out. It also helps that both key cogs in the machine are  well written; Nate is the stereotypical hard-man, Polly is a quirky preteen with spunk in spades – together, a perfect character combination.

My rating: 5/5 stars, A Lesson in Violence is a fast paced, quick read which manages to both convey a deep emotional connection to its characters while also delivering an action packed blood fueled romp.        

Note. this title has also been published as She Rides Shotgun