It's such a trip going from Darker Than Amber straight to this book, only because that one was perilously close to a Nancy Drew-style 1950s romp-slashIt's such a trip going from Darker Than Amber straight to this book, only because that one was perilously close to a Nancy Drew-style 1950s romp-slash-French farce, complete with hiding in each other's staterooms, and this is a long, drawn-out, pulpy execution of the 1960s drug culture. It has vicious teeth to it.
There's a point about two-thirds of the way through where the plot starts to get a little tired, but it's really an accurate depiction, I think, of how tired McGee and Meyer are of the whole sordid mess they've found themselves in....more
Overall, a mixed bag, but that's what you have to say about 95% of anthologies. It's difficult to find 14 short story writers and an essayist who canOverall, a mixed bag, but that's what you have to say about 95% of anthologies. It's difficult to find 14 short story writers and an essayist who can all hold it together on theme, plot, character and technical excellence. And rating this anthology is complicated by the fact I'm a white non-Malaysian, so I have exactly zero standing to comment on things like authenticity or exoticness. For me it's just good enough that now I know there's a place in the world called Port Klang.
So, in the order they appear in the book:
"The Runner" by Adib Zaini: Teenage girl gets in over her head with drug-runners, has to figure out how to get out. Solid ending.
"Rukun Tetangga" by Preeta Samarasan: About a weird bachelor uncle who gets weirder, but not in any interesting way.
"Mamak Murder Mystery" by Marc de Faoite: was indeed mysterious, and a little ambiguous, but I got the idea it was mostly written to draw attention to the existence of an Indian immigrant population who staff Malaysian fast food restaurants and dream of returning to India. And on that front it was successful.
"Asian Angel" by Shaz Johar: Nice twists, but mostly forgettable.
"A Gift of Flowers" by Shih-Li Kow: I think this story really wanted to go the O. Henry or Isak Dinesen route but the vignettes just weren't sharp enough for the direction to hold.
"Kiss from a Rose" by Fadzlishah Johanabas: Almost worked. Maybe for someone more romantic than me.
"After Dark, My Love" by Dina Zaman: The one essay in the book, it's captivating and informative, but comes totally out of left field. I kept trying to figure out if it was fiction or not.
"The Oracle of Truth" by Eeleen Lee: Brutal and curious, and very nicely done.
"Chasing Butterflies in the Night" by Kris Williamson: Excellent! One of the two most squarely noir stories on offer, and better than a good 80% of the noir shorts I've read lately.
"The Dualist" by Shivani Sivagurunathan: The one story I could not follow at all. At. All. I had no idea who was sleeping with whom, or who thought they were sleeping with someone and who the professor was and who wasn't supposed to know. Someone smarter than me should read this and explain it to me.
"Vanished" by Khairulnizam Bakeri: There's a note in the introduction that the publishers like noir that veers more towards what's thought more as pulp than American conceptions of noir, and this is the story that really kicks off the serious pulp portion of the book. And it's good. It's strange and modern and ghostly and weird.
"Cannibal vs. Ah Long" by Megat Ishak: Not my favorite story in the bunch, but holy crow is it good. It's just balls-out pulp and horror and if that's not enough to convince you to read it, there's this quote from it in the frontispiece to the book: "Several teeth shot out from his rectum and clinked against the porcelain bowl before dropping into the water." Should probably win some sort of award.
"The Machete and Me" by Dayang Noor: My 2nd favorite of the collection, it tells the story of complicated, tragic matriarchies and cursed heirlooms. It passes the Bechdel Test and it's astonishingly good.
"The Unbeliever" by Amir Hafizi: My favorite, hands-down. Three words: Malaysian Cthulhu mythos. All pulp, all the time, no line, no waiting. Like smelling fresh cigar smoke in the library of a mansion when no one's been home for decades. Fantabulous.
"Mud" by Brian Gomez: Mean, nasty and very well done.
Three stars for the collection overall because for me, there was that long section in the middle that felt a little sloggy, but this is the first of four themed volumes from this publisher, so I'll be sure to pick up the next one when it comes out.
Really wanted to like this one more than I did, but even so, a mediocre Logan MacRae is still a Logan MacRae.
The good: DI Steel, DI Steel, DI Steel,Really wanted to like this one more than I did, but even so, a mediocre Logan MacRae is still a Logan MacRae.
The good: DI Steel, DI Steel, DI Steel, especially when she's being obscene about Helen Mirren and a Curly Wurly. The interactions with Beattie, or as MacRae thinks of him "sixteen stone of useless with a beard." The interesting, Gollumlike villain. The Wee Hamish Mowat storyline. Aberdeen in winter equaling placeporn for miiiiiiiiiles.
--Go away, Samantha, or grow a personality. (Bring back Jackie!) --Way too many random small-time lowlifes who get athletically arrested by MacRae, forgotten for 100 pages and then trotted out as plot devices. I get the plot device thing, but there were way too many of the dudes this time around. There's a bit where MacRae has a brainstorm and goes to find Angus Black and I sat there holding the book thinking, "Was that the art student? The car dealer? The guy in the caravan? Or...who was that again?" --All the inter-policial hidey-pokey "intrigue". Bizarre and distracting. --I felt like the villain got wasted on the plot to a large extent, because there was really no explanation for his behavior except he's a deviant. Why? Because he rapes old men. Why? Because he's a deviant. (HT TyrusBooks). We could've lost at least two subplots and come back to Knox and his backstory, because he really deserved better.
However, I can forgive a lot when DI Steel's involved. Three stars, definitely reading the next installment....more
I'm torn, because this is me jumping right into the middle of the Jack Caffery series and wondering if I should've started at the beginning with bookI'm torn, because this is me jumping right into the middle of the Jack Caffery series and wondering if I should've started at the beginning with book one. However: severed hands.
Grippingly good Somerset, with well managed and diverting subplots and red herrings, along with characters I am both fascinated and repelled by, as well as characters I just plain like.
I kind of wanted Hayder to follow up on the bit where Jack decides his new house dislikes him, but I can understand how the Walking Man subplot took over there. I also wondered about Mandy and Thom, but just about halfway through this book I ordered the rest of the series via inter-library loan, so I'm thinking I might find out.
Now, apart from my bizarre yen for Flea/Katherine hatesex and the somewhat abrupt ending, I'm going to call this one fan-diddly-tastic. I'd say two thumbs up, but in a book about severed hands, that's not altogether appropriate. ...more
Yes, only 3 stars, despite being filled with the phenomenal DI Steel. Steel actually kind of saved the book for me, tbh. I loved finally meeting SusanYes, only 3 stars, despite being filled with the phenomenal DI Steel. Steel actually kind of saved the book for me, tbh. I loved finally meeting Susan and I loved all Steel's terrible behavior and drama, because McRae kind of sleepwalked through this one, and wasn't as much of a dynamic character, for me, as in previous books.
And the action was so scaled back in comparison with the first four books it felt kind of meh -- and in a crime novel where people's eyes are being burnt out, that's really saying something.
So many loose ends that never got dealt to: the priest, Krystal, Tracy and Kyrie (I so wanted to know what happened there), Wictorja. And there were way too many McLeods to keep track of and care about.
But that said, I loved how, in the end, the story really came back to inter-office Grampian Police DRAMA. V much looking forward to Steel making Beattie cry on a regular basis. And hell yes, torturing your protagonist. Hell yes. The amount that McRae's been through in such a short time of course he's going to start acting out. It's that or implode entirely and reach for the Drano.
A four-story collection that features four really above-par stories set on boats and in boatyards with female protagonists who areDaaaaaaaaaaaa-yum.
A four-story collection that features four really above-par stories set on boats and in boatyards with female protagonists who are agentive and fucked-up and determined and memorable. I cannot believe this book was free.
1st of all: great boatyard porn. Whatever, haters, I like to read about marine salvage and I like it done well.
2nd of all: see, I thought these stories would be your classic femme fatales, with hairsprayed 'dos and clinging chiffon and-- no, ma'am. These are working women who suffer and fight and exhibit a stamina for the hardships of life -- along with a love of boats and Florida and the ocean -- that make the quartet of stories hard to ignore.
Heck, I read all four in one sitting. Do y'all know what I was supposed to be doing with the last hour of my life? Still totally worth it....more
First time I read this book: "Wicked unimpressed by this one, mainly because Paddy irritated me the whole time, so spending 300+ pages wanting to slapFirst time I read this book: "Wicked unimpressed by this one, mainly because Paddy irritated me the whole time, so spending 300+ pages wanting to slap her silly was a hard slog. I did really like Kate's pov, and the solution to the mystery. The resolution on the other hand, felt abrupt and unfinished. What did Paddy do with what she knew? Or did she just sit in the toilets and have a cry?"
And then on re-reading, I decided she's still terrible, but that makes her kind of awesome. And I liked Kate and the mystery even better this time. Still think the ending was abrupt....more
I feel like I'd been waiting so long for this very book, the first one that's gotten everything right about how teenage girls run around carrying so mI feel like I'd been waiting so long for this very book, the first one that's gotten everything right about how teenage girls run around carrying so much heat and anger, and how terrified everyone else is of that. ...more