After three books of Nameless coughing up his lungs he finally decides enough is enough and gets it checked out. The doc finds a lesion on his lungs a...moreAfter three books of Nameless coughing up his lungs he finally decides enough is enough and gets it checked out. The doc finds a lesion on his lungs and tells him further testing would reveal whether it was malignant or benign. This sets up the situation of Nameless worrying himself to death in anticipation of the results. In the meantime a friend calls him asking for a favour. Desperate to push his anxiety to the back of his mind our lonely detective agrees. The setting: a lakeside fishing camp. The set-up: a beutiful wife and a jealous neurotic husband. A camp owner worried that there might be trouble ahead. Mainly though this one is about Nameless taking a long look inside himself as he faces off against his own mortality. Pronzini ramps up the tension with a heat-wave and some seemingly unconnected criminal activity resulting in murder. As with the last book the actual mysteries plotted out aren't the greatest but it's well written as usual about a fictional character who is forever matching himself up to the fictional characters of his beloved pulps and facing the fears that dog us all as we get older.(less)
The Case of the Tell Tale Hands. A rather dull and pedestrian story to begin an anthology with, Watson uncharacteristically docum...moreReview from Badelynge.
The Case of the Tell Tale Hands. A rather dull and pedestrian story to begin an anthology with, Watson uncharacteristically documenting the intricacies of finger printing rather than injecting any excitement or urgency into the proceedings. At the half way stage I was almost hoping for the introduction of a Pygmy or two. Holmes seems perpetually on the verge of calling all and sundry, including Watson, blithering morons. The only lighter moment in the whole affair is the alacrity that Watson displays in choosing Ilfracoombe over Tenby as a holiday destination.
The Case of the King's Evil. This one was much more to my liking. The plot, though not too murky in its complexity, is still interesting enough to hold the interest, mainly due to how Holmes handles affairs, maintaining a teasing attitude with Watson throughout, which all stems from how the case initially requested aid from the good Doctor and not the better than good detective. The case takes the pair to Norfolk to discover what happened to two brothers, lighthouse keepers both, who have gone missing after a witnessed fight. There are good descriptions throughout of the estuary, the mudflats and the treacherous tides and quicksand under foot. There is a particularly suspenseful sequence out on the mud flats, the tide rushing in, as Holmes pushes bullishly toward a solution with Watson in reluctant tow, the latter seemingly with more mind to the danger the environment poses than the other. I must admit to a fairly rabid fetish in myself for lighthouses, so combining my Holmesian obsession with such is a double whammy. Good stuff.
The Case of the Portuguese sonnets. Back to more dull ramblings among the murky doings of forgers and extortionists. Too much time is spent with the mechanics and history of forgery, which reads sometimes like a light skimming session on Wikepedia. Hired by Robert Browning's son Holmes travels to Venice, which as a location is largely ignored in favour of dusty rooms filled with poetry, documents and manuscripts from a whole host of figures from Byron to Whitman, as he immerses himself in the dubious art of the forgerer. Yes I chuckled several times at some of Holmes' stock put-downs as Watson and Lestrade so obligingly set themselves up but beyond that my main state of mind, despite being doubly armed with a hot Nespresso and a box of Jaffa Cakes, was boredom. Holmes needs an adversary to outwit or a problem to solve, lives to save or judgement to fall.
The Case of Peter the Painter. This one is jam packed full of the things that make a good Sherlock Holmes story one of the all time high marks for cosy reads. It's got a little of everything. Holmes has a visitor and he can't resist showing off his 'method' for Watson by applying it to the woman who calls. The woman in question tells a story of a sick daughter, yellow canaries and foreigners up to no-good. Holmes is on top note. Watson not so much. Unfortunately, at this point it becomes apparent that Donald Thomas' schtick has turned up wearing Doc Martens; Thomas loves to tie in the story with some historical incidence - in this case the clashes between police and Russian Anarchists notoriously remembered as 'the Houndsditch Murders' in which three policemen were gunned down dead and several more wounded and the Siege of Sydney Street in which Winston Churchill was at hand leading armed police and a detachment of Scots Guard against a heavily armed group of robber/anarchists. Watson gets heavily side-lined as the two Holmes brothers get pally with Winston but at least it gives him time to get some quality reading done in the form of Scott's Heart of Mid-Lothian. Although this is one of the better stories by Thomas I still think it had potential to be better without being diluted by the author's little history essays. 'The Siege of Sidney Street' also appeared in Barrie Roberts' 'Sherlock Holmes and the Railway Maniac', the first of nine Holmes novels which I heartily recommend.
The Case of the Zimmermann Telegram. The title is all you really need to know. If you have an interest in the Zimmermann Telegram then google some bibliography and save yourself having to read some historical commentary masquerading as a Sherlock Holmes story. Taking place during the 'His Last Bow' era, the story features Sherlock as our secret master decoder and Watson as a secret agent. Sound good? It isn't. No narrative whatsoever, just a very potted spotty history of the exploits of Room 40's codebreakers during the Great War but with Holmes as the prime mover. It occurred to me that the whole story might be another coded message which I eventually managed to decode. It reads thus: FEEL FREE TO SKIM THIS RUBBISH. Unfortunately the message revealed itself too late.
I do like a good anthology. But I do much prefer a mixed author anthology. In a mixed author anthology Donald Thomas might have been represented by the very agreeable 'The Case of the King's Evil', whereas here, in a single author anthology, his faults are highlighted by their repetition and by the inclusion of stories that are of variable quality. Many of these single author anthologies by authors attempting the Holmes pastiche have their highlights but are also of variable quality. It really underlines just what Doyle achieved to maintain such a high level of consistency throughout all 56 of his Sherlock Holmes short stories.
Seeing as how this anthology consisted of five stories I decided to award a star for each story which was worth reading.(less)
I adored the first Kick-Ass. I was still kinda liking Kick-Ass 2 through the first couple of issues... but then it just went and shoved it's head down...moreI adored the first Kick-Ass. I was still kinda liking Kick-Ass 2 through the first couple of issues... but then it just went and shoved it's head down the waste disposal. Would reading it all again in one bloody splurge improve the experience? Nope.(less)
Walt Longmire, Wyoming's Absaroka County Sheriff, is visiting his daughter in Philadelphia, killing two birds with one stone as he keeps his best frie...moreWalt Longmire, Wyoming's Absaroka County Sheriff, is visiting his daughter in Philadelphia, killing two birds with one stone as he keeps his best friend Henry Standing Bear company setting up a cultural exhibition. Dog comes too. Walt has hardly had time to raid the freezer for a few bottles of Yuengling before he gets the news that his daughter has been in an incident that leaves her with a serious head injury. Investigating the incident seems to trigger a chain reaction of violence and dead bodies, along with a series of cryptic notes. Walt also gets to meet Vic's family, though in typical Walt fashion, you know that old fashioned guy sort of fashion, it's Vic's mother who gets the most invitations to dinner. The mystery degenerates into a bit of Treasure Hunt following those notes and Walt really needs to take more care with his physical wellbeing and stop getting run over or having bits shot off. Even among all the city folk he manages to keep a hold of his wry humour, along with the cowboy hat. It's not all about the fisticuffs and firearms though; there's a well played running theme about friendship and the love between father and daughter with a touching little pay-off set up in the first chapter and cashed in during the epilogue. This is your classic fish out of water escapade. It's Tarzan's New York Adventure, Sherlock Holmes in Washington,.... well maybe not but maybe it could be an episode of McCloud. "There ya go!" (less)
'It was one of those jobs you take on when things are very lean. You want to turn it down- it's an old story, and a sordid one, and a sad one- but you...more'It was one of those jobs you take on when things are very lean. You want to turn it down- it's an old story, and a sordid one, and a sad one- but you know you can't afford to. The rent falls due in a few days and the savings account is all but depleted; you haven't worked in almost three weeks, and the boredom and the emptiness are beginning to take their toll. So you look into tear-filmed gray eyes, and you sigh, and you say yes...' So begins another adventure for our lonely hero; a seemingly straightforward case of a suspicious wife and a wayward husband with mysterious weekend business trips. Nameless follows the husband all the way to Monteray and then it gets complicated. To be honest, although I love nameless, the plot to this one is an outright dud and too much of a stretch even for forgiving imaginations. It's also not helped by nameless falling into line with the local police chief, a guy called Quartermain. It transforms the format from the lone wolf P.I. into a straightforward police procedural with Nameless taking on the role of defacto Detective Sergeant. There are good things still to be enjoyed from the writing. Dodgy plot aside I had a lot of fun trying to place Pronzini's little make-believe hamlet Cypress Bay but it's cleverly hidden away among a rash of equally make believe locations with interchangeable usages of the words Cypress, Grove, Ocean etc, with the occasional vague reference to a real location. And then there is the introduction of recurring character, and thoroughly fictional pulp hack, Russell Dancer. He's got a lot of interesting things to say about the publishing industry and the scenes with him alone with nameless are fascinating. Pronzini's prose is good too, dragging every last bit of loneliness from those views of the ocean and those wind shaped Cypress trees.(less)
A little boy turns up at the 87th Precinct with a cryptic letter from a killer. "I will kill the lady at 8 tonight. What can you do about it?" It could...moreA little boy turns up at the 87th Precinct with a cryptic letter from a killer. "I will kill the lady at 8 tonight. What can you do about it?" It could well be a hoax but can they take that risk? Although this one is a bit contrived it's still a lot of fun as the 87th spends 12 hours running about trying to catch the letter sender before the hammer falls. Cotton Hawes gets to do plenty of the hero bit, though his falling in love thrice a day is getting a bit wearing as is his constant explanation of how he got his white streak. I'm pretty sure McBain still hasn't got over being foisted with the big lunk and is deliberately sending him up. Remember 'Cop Hater' the first book in the series and set in a relentless heatwave. Well this is another hot one. The year has gone full circle. It doesn't quite drip with heat as 'Cop Hater' did, but it's still a scorcher. Sure this one has its flaws but at this stage McBain/Hunter etc was knocking about three of these out a year, just as a sideline to his more profitable work. Eight books into the series and the first thing that happens after the last page turns is a hunt for the next one. (less)
You know when a long running tv series gets about three quarters through the season it often kicks out an episode where our heroes get caught up in a...moreYou know when a long running tv series gets about three quarters through the season it often kicks out an episode where our heroes get caught up in a bank siege or some other contrivance that sees them confined to one or two rooms. Basically they spent all the budget on flashier episodes. Killer's Wedge feels a bit like one of those but in a book. It's easy to become over critical though and forget that 87th Precinct was never meant to be still being appraised, praised and loved over half a century later. They were just 25cent pocket book ephemera that folk might fill a dinner hour or a boring commute with. A woman turns up at the 87th squad room armed with a gun, a bottle of nitro and a heart filled with hate for Detective Steve Carella. Most of the shift of detectives are present, or stumble in on the proceedings, with the exception of Carella himself. He's off at a creaky old mansion trying to solve a locked room mystery. And it's a very dull mystery with even duller suspects that has the detective mainly fiddling with the locked door, bits of string and crow bars. Meanwhile back at the squad room various members of the shift roster, including our new hero Cotton Hawes try to work out a way to divest the murderous revenge lady of her weapons. The tension gets cranked to the max for sure, and there's a great wildcard character introduced to the mix, a girl who may or may not have slit a gang leader's throat... but I just didn't enjoy the experience. On the plus side we did get a bit of a look at the inner workings of the precinct. Aside from all that I look forward to the boys getting back to what they do best - fighting crime and shooting the breeze.(less)
Interesting,well researched look at part of Richard the Lionheart's life through a fictionalised narrative. I'd probably have immersed a bit more thor...moreInteresting,well researched look at part of Richard the Lionheart's life through a fictionalised narrative. I'd probably have immersed a bit more thoroughly when I was younger. Well worth a look for all the history buffs. I'd probably have to reread and take notes to properly review this book but the book arrived at a difficult time for me personally. This book was an advanced reading copy from goodreads.(less)
The guys at the 87th Precinct have a proper little mystery on their hands when serial blackmailer Sy Kramer gets blown away in a drive-by shooting. Th...moreThe guys at the 87th Precinct have a proper little mystery on their hands when serial blackmailer Sy Kramer gets blown away in a drive-by shooting. They find there are no shortage of suspects. My copy of Killer's Payoff had a fascinating introduction by the author in which he is fairly scathing of the outside pressures put upon him by publishing execs because they felt the series needed a boost. Cotton Hawes, introduced in the previous book, was forced upon him because the powers that be decided Steve Carella couldn't be a proper hero because he was married. McBain/Hunter went along with it but was uncomfortable with moving away from his initial concept, that of a sort of gestalt hero embodied by an ever changing squad room. No single guy should be the hero. Cotton Hawes comes along and he's tall, young, handsome and most importantly... single. And he has a penchant for striking out on his own in a pulpy P.I. way. McBain was making very little for the paperbacks at the time compared to some of his big successes like Blackboard Jungle but he was enjoying the ride anyway and determined to keep his publishers on board with Cotton but to somehow bring him more in line with the original 87th Precinct ethos. He ends his intro, as so many Cotton Hawes chapters do, with the line.... 'And so to bed'.(less)
Killer's Choice has a couple of notable landmarks which include the last appearance by hard-as-nails cop, Detective Roger Havilland. He's found in the...moreKiller's Choice has a couple of notable landmarks which include the last appearance by hard-as-nails cop, Detective Roger Havilland. He's found in the broken remains of a grocery store window after an apparent hold-up, fatally injured by a shard of glass. Steve Carella follows a lead to track down the killer but is joined by the newly transferred Cotton Hawes. Carella soon discovers that Hawes is having trouble adapting from the more genteel surroundings of his previous posting compared to the mean streets patrolled by the 87th. Trouble that just might get somebody killed. Meanwhile Detectives Bert Kling and Meyer Meyer have to track down another killer from a suspected hold-up, this time at a liquor store. The detectives soon discover that the victim, a beautiful redhead, seems to have lived a variety of lives depending on who they question. Thematically not as strong as Con Man, the previous entry, but Killer's Choice still right royally entertains with some character driven dialogue that's going to please any fan of the series. Every book seems to add something new.(less)
Review from badelynge. Taking a last minute protection detail from a colleague, ex Indianapolis cop and former P.I. Frank Behr doesn't know what he's l...moreReview from badelynge. Taking a last minute protection detail from a colleague, ex Indianapolis cop and former P.I. Frank Behr doesn't know what he's letting himself in for. Now working for the Caro group , a security firm, Frank spends most of his working days at a desk, compiling security checks for contracted firms and organisations. He's bored to tears but circumstances and a pregnant girlfriend don't leave him too many other options. The security detail turns out to be a lot less routine that it should have been and he's ambushed in an underground car park by a lone shooter with some very fancy weaponry. Frank foils the hit but the shooter gets away... and beyond a lot of pats on the back nobody seems to want to investigate. Now this is where I have my only quibble with the book. Motivation. Frank's motivation. Usually the plot dictates that the protagonist has to take the case or bad things are going to happen to them as a result. This one has nothing of the sort. In fact it's quite clear from the outset that poking your nose into things is going to cost you at the very least your job, and it's going to paint targets on your back, your girlfriend's back and one for that little unborn life too. He's confronted several times and asked just what are his motivations and the best he can offer are vague notions of things being personal and even just outright boredom. Maybe, as somebody suggests, he's just a glory hound. Other than that the book is very entertaining; a twisty corporate shenanigans plot, a lethal Welsh hitman, lots of action and a hero who won't lie down. This is the third in David Levien's series featuring Frank Behr and my copy was titled The Contract even though it's previously been published as 13 Million Dollar Pop, though I guess that doesn't translate too well outside the States. Review from an advanced readers copy. (less)
Review from Badelynge Christopher Fowler's brilliantly conceived british detective series continues. This one has quite a lot of mess to clean up from...moreReview from Badelynge Christopher Fowler's brilliantly conceived british detective series continues. This one has quite a lot of mess to clean up from the previous book. Mr Fox is back on the loose after his escape from custody and the Peculiar Crimes Unit is reeling from the death of one of their own. Bryant and May must use every resource available to bring the killer in or it's curtains for the unit. London bleeds from these books. With so many writers setting thier story in London these days, many of them having never set foot on either bank of the Thames, it's a breath of fresh air to read about the place from a proper resident devotee. Bryant's fascination for all the minutiae of urban history and myth, that esoteric soup he draws on to fuel his investigations and which is served up with such a relish, it's obvious Fowler loves all this stuff as well. The other half of the aging duo, May, is the procedural side of the operation. Fowler somehow manages to write quirkily with great humour but also maintains real atmosphere, threat and suspense which is no mean card trick. Off the Rails takes the PCU down to the London Underground as they try to track the seemingly faceless killer. Bryant is in his element sifting through the wealth of ghost stories and history that a bunch of Victorian tunnels can accrue in a century and a half. When one line of enquiry leads the unit to a bunch of students things become even more chaotic as the clues get obscured by Bryant's achilles heel - technology. Review from an advanced reading copy.(less)
Review from Badelynge. The late R.D. Wingfield's famous scruffy detective lives on again in this the second book featuring the early investigations by...moreReview from Badelynge. The late R.D. Wingfield's famous scruffy detective lives on again in this the second book featuring the early investigations by Frost. It's 1982 and Frost is currently a Detective Sergeant though due to the absence of most of the higher ranks at Eagle Lane he's doing the job he'd eventually rise to in Wingfield's books. James Henry is the working name of a duo of writers attempting to capture the beloved character. It always seems to me that the character has had as many negative habits pinned to him as possible but with the mission of making the detective still likeable. He smokes so heavily even the smokers feel ill, he hardly changes his clothes even in a heatwave, rarely goes home, drinks on the job, though to be fair so does the rest of the squad-room and he's cheating on his wife. Really he's the only fully formed character in the book along with the heavily caricatured Mullett. They're polar opposites, equally disdainful of each other but the two of them are stuck together. It's a situation that sort of underpins the whole series and generates most of the amusement. The other characters don't really have a lot to them, which sadly includes the new guy, DS Waters, Denton's first black policeman. It's a strand that had potential but it never really goes anywhere and pulls its punches when touching on racism within the force during the 80s. Fatal Frost is a very readable and entertaining police procedural, with several cases ongoing which sort of overlap in places. Looking in on a younger Frost is a great idea. The little touches of period detail tend to pop out of the narrative unexpectedly. It's a bit like driving over unseen speed bumps. They jolt you out of the story because they don't quite blend into the contemporary perspective. Two quid would have been two quid, and bins would have been bins, with no mention of what material they were both made out of. As someone who was thirteen at the time I can appreciate the nostalgia evoked but it does seem to have a slight retrospective feel to it that probably doesn't compare to books actually written in the 80s. It's not a big problem though. I'd certainly read any more books in the series. So crack open a can of Harp lager, reach for a pack of Rothmans (maybe not), stick Alison Moyet on the record player and dive into the 80s with that scruffy bloke with a dead cat in his car. This review is from an advance reading copy.(less)
This is an 88 page long book of tips and advice for anyone that might contemplate dipping their virgin toes into marketing a self published book. It's...moreThis is an 88 page long book of tips and advice for anyone that might contemplate dipping their virgin toes into marketing a self published book. It's probably more use to the complete novice than anybody else. It's concise and to the point, touching on everything from the creation and formatting of your book to the eventual marketing and management of your publication, be it an ebook or hard copy. Websites and applications are recommended, some more useful than others and there are a few glaring omissions. Goodreads is a brilliant site for engaging with huge numbers of voracious book cataloguing readers but why no mention of LibraryThing, a site which has much more tolerance for the marketing of ebooks through firstread giveaways. There's some very good information on dealing with Amazon and related kindle services and there's also some apposite advice on how to deal with me... well, not me specifically but rather us, the reviewers. "Generally reviewers will only accept books in hard-copy," she advises. Very true I can attest. And I nod my head sagely to her advice on dealing with the reviews themselves. Review copy from Goodreads giveaway. (less)
Review fro Badelynge. Christopher Fowler's wonderful creations, elderly detectives Bryant and May and the Peculiar Crimes Unit are called in to investi...moreReview fro Badelynge. Christopher Fowler's wonderful creations, elderly detectives Bryant and May and the Peculiar Crimes Unit are called in to investigate the brutal killing of a young baby taken from its cot in a locked room, shaken to death and callously thrown out the window. And on the floor next to the cot lies a life size Mr Punch doll. As ever Bryant dives into the esoteric aspects of the case while May employs solid police work. The book kicks off with some documents detailing the history and function of the PCU complete with personnel files, and all seemingly compiled and perused by shadowy government types bent on closing down the unit. Generally Bryant usually states that he doesn't do multi-tasking so he's severely hampered this time by being distracted by the suspicious death of his biographer. Luckily DS Janice Longbright agrees to help him get to the bottom of it so that he can get to grips with the main investigation. London's theatrical history and our own peculiar fascination with Punch and Judy over the centuries certainly give the old detective plenty of food for thought. Fowler manages to pull off his own brand of alchemy that blends the outright absurd with hard reality but no matter how dark it gets there is always room for humour. My only slight niggle is that opening chapter. It's one of those 'let's lift a weird and exciting chapter from the end of the book and put it right at the start so the reader doesn't get put off by the sedate start.' I love all the slow build up so I don't think it was needed. Prequel chapter aside I still had a good time with Bryant and May again. Review from an advanced readers copy.(less)