This one holds on to its forth star by the skin of its teeth. The cleanness of Pronzini's complex plotting is mired under a snarl of coincidences that...moreThis one holds on to its forth star by the skin of its teeth. The cleanness of Pronzini's complex plotting is mired under a snarl of coincidences that form the overarching theme of the book. It doesn't quite have anywhere to go though and our nameless hero is reluctant to wrestle with the metaphysics of relentless fate so it ends up simply with our hero puzzled and deflected by the coincidences. Nameless is certainly off his game even though he's out from under the shadow of that wracking cough and the incipient threat it promised during the first batch of novels in the series. The tangles in the case he's investigating come unravelled more from the paranoia of the perps than from any real deduction on his part. Major plusses are the locations. San Fran rising up though the fog. Bodega Bay, location of Hitchcock's superbly noirish (screenplay by Evan Hunter) The Birds is easy to call up, even after the woes of rampant commercialism that Nameless/Pronzini rail against having supposedly spoilt the isolated remoteness of the place. In the end Pronzini has a last attempt to make something of the rash of coincidences but unless you step over the genre boundary into horror à la Final Destination or the Omen and add a supernatural element it's got no real bite. Frankly I was more disturbed by Nameless's seemingly encyclopaedic knowledge of nautical terms.(less)
After the last couple of slightly under par books McBain blasts back with one of the best so far. It's a really snappy read with plenty of the author'...moreAfter the last couple of slightly under par books McBain blasts back with one of the best so far. It's a really snappy read with plenty of the author's trademark forays into the philosophical but also with a strong theme running throughout examining the degrees of ruthlessness that men will employ to follow their dreams. Think Shakespeare à la McBeth in a shoe factory. The book opens during a long scene at a board meeting where several share holders begin plotting to gain control of the company so they can produce a cheaper shoe. Doug King ridicules their plans and storms out of the meeting, his own plans already in place. Plans that are immediately threatened by both treachery from within and the kidnapping of his son from without. But worse is to come when it's discovered the kidnapped boy was not his son but rather the Chauffeur's boy; the dilemma of whether to still pay the ransom and financially ruin himself or to save himself and let the boy die being one that would have social consequences just as final. The entire precinct are called out to hunt the kidnappers, though the police angle on this one is secondary to the King family and the Kidnappers. Carella carries most of the police angle with a little support from Meyer and the boorish Parker, though even Lt. Byrnes comes out from behind his desk to lend a hand. It all gets very tense. The plot was used and expanded upon in the highly regarded Japanese film 'High & Low' by the brilliant Akira Kurosawa.(less)
Ed Mcbain's 9th in the ever entertaining 87th Precinct is a bit of a departure, lighter than usual with McBain in a playful mood throughout. The plot...moreEd Mcbain's 9th in the ever entertaining 87th Precinct is a bit of a departure, lighter than usual with McBain in a playful mood throughout. The plot is slight of stature with Steve Carella responding to an unsubstantiated threat to his soon to be brother-in-law's life on his wedding day. A threat that comes with company, in the tiny but dangerous form of a black widow spider. As plot devices goes, McBain might have to beg pardon for his cliches. But never mind that. Once the ball is rolling McBain goes to work. He populates every blind corner and opportunity with the threat of impending death, has suspects crawling from every shadow and he has a ball doing it. Carella drafts in two of his off duty colleagues, Kling & Hawes with girlfriend in tow, and tasks them with keeping vigil during the big day. Carella himself attends with his heavily pregnant wife Teddy. Even with impending murder lurking, the tensions and distractions of a good wedding can keep even the most professional detective's senses blunted. Before long things escalate and Meyer Meyer and O'Brian are also drafted, tracking a trombone case all over the city. I've mentioned in previous reviews McBains attitude to editorial directives. Cotton Hawes was one such directive when his publishers deemed Carella too old and too married to persistently carry off the hero's role. Subsequently McBain proceeded to create a young hero, Cotton Hawes, that he would delight in sending up and humiliating at every opportunity. At the same time in 'Til Death, the author spends nearly an entire book introducing the extended family of the detective he was directed to ditch, developing Carella's relationships and history yet further. 'Til Death is a bit of an oddity in the series, being several steps closer to being a theatrical farce than to the gritty police procedural we are used to, but as ever McBain's easy prose, the banter and snappy dialogue coupled with the carefully nurtured cast of regulars makes for a short though enjoyable interlude in city cop life. (less)
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)