Eamon Dillon devoted a whole chapter of The Fraudsters: How Con Artists Make Their Money to these email scams. Curious to learn more, I ordered Charle...moreEamon Dillon devoted a whole chapter of The Fraudsters: How Con Artists Make Their Money to these email scams. Curious to learn more, I ordered Charles Tive's 419 Scam: Exploits of the Nigerian Con Man. Tive's bio reads that he is a former Deputy Superintendent in the Nigerian Police Force who has since worked with the US Embassy in Lagos to help investigate 419 fraud against American citizens. It sounded like he'd be the perfect source to deliver the inside story.
Unfortunately, the meat of 419 Scam measured less than one hundred pages. Copies of the actual Nigerian Code 419 laws (from which the common advance fee fraud acquired its name) and similar legal documents padded that out to 143 pages in total. After the overview of how the crimes work, a historical background, and brief introductions to related crimes like identity theft, money laundering and postal fraud, Tive's book contains little that is new to anyone who has read their Eamon Dillon, laughed at the 419 Eater site, or had their identity stolen by a (now deceased) 419 fraudster.
Critical Mick says: A brief introduction to the 419 world, Charles Tive's 419 Scam: Exploits of the Nigerian Con Man does not feature the tone or tension that a talented investigative journalist would bring, nor the depth that a serious academic's study would offer. It's from iUniverse and it's better than nothing.
The premise of Frances Lloyd's debut novel, Nemesis of the Dead, sound pure Agatha Christie: ten English characters with pasts that secretly interconn...moreThe premise of Frances Lloyd's debut novel, Nemesis of the Dead, sound pure Agatha Christie: ten English characters with pasts that secretly interconnect, isolated on a picturesque Greek isle with no police, doctors, or other means of assistance, and then one of them mysteriously perishes. Who, beneath this communal dining area pergola, is the killer?
Lucky thing that one of the vacationing couples is Detective Inspector Jack Dawes of Scotland Yard's Murder Squad and his wife Corrie, of Corriander's Cuisine. While these forty-somethings should be enjoying a second honeymoon, they are confronted with a mystery- and the atrocious food at Hotel Stasinopoulos. Who's the one with murder on their mind- the angry New Age Traveller? "Old Misery Guts," the beligerent Insurance Man with a weak heart? His beaten-down Wife? Professor Cuthbert Gordon, renowned botanist? His Glamourous Young American Playgirl Wife? The Clerk? The Nanny? The Plumber? Even Yanni and Maria, who run the hotel, are not telling the whole truth.
Sure, I'm a bloke who loves Dawn of the Dead and Land of the Dead. but another problem I had with Nemesis of the Dead is its extrememly low body count. In a murder mystery, aren't victims supposed to be killed? Lloyd's novel features a couple of dangerous situations and suspicious accidents, but these Ten Little Indians stay Ten.
Finally some action turns deadly, and the ending did contain a surprise or two that I did not see coming. But as with Last Man Standing by David Baldacci, most of the fun in Nemesis of the Dead came from a humorous sidekick. Outrageous Arsenal-supporting plumber Sid Foskett was more appealing to this bloke than the middle-aged crime-solving caterer. Crime fans of a different demographic might become more involved and intrigued, but Nemesis of the Dead kept reminding me of the awful made-for-TV version of Christie's The Man in the Brown Suit with that chick from Remington Steele.
Author of academic texts such as The Cognition of Geographic Space, Maynooth-based Rob Kitchin demonstrates with The Rule Book that can also write fic...moreAuthor of academic texts such as The Cognition of Geographic Space, Maynooth-based Rob Kitchin demonstrates with The Rule Book that can also write fiction convincingly. His debut novel opens with the discovery of a woman's body at the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation, murdered by a sword in what appears to be a bizarre sacrifice. Nearby is a typed note, headed "The Rules: Chapter One M: Choosing a victim R" and business cards which read "The Rule Book: A Self-Help Guide to would-be serial killers. In all good bookshops soon."
A killer- soon to be known in the media as The Raven- vows to deliver his rule book one chapter, one victim per day over the course of a week. To catch him and save six lives, a recently-widowed member of An Garda Síochána named Detective Superintendent Colm McEvoy must find the strength and smarts to identify the boldest serial killer Ireland has ever seen.
Praise is very much due for breaking the mystery genre's cornier rules. In almost every crime film or feature, for example, the baddie turns out to be a character with whom the detective has been acquainted all along. The murderer in 1980's courtroom drama Suspect, for instance, turning out to be the judge trying Cher's case. Ugh! That might be a twist that conforms to literary convention, but it's about as likely in reality as mega-hottie Paulina Porizkova developing a deep sexual fixation with an irreverent online reviewer.
The Rule Book deserves praise for breaking one other golden diktat of detective fiction, but for that readers have to wait for Kitchin's Epilogue. Nothing is predictable.
Critical Mick says: The Rule Book puts Rob Kitchin on the Irish Crime map. It's gripping, gruesome, and a hell of a fun puzzle. It shows careful research (right down to the latitude and longitude of various points around Dublin's Phoenix Park) and digs deep into an interesting character. I was kept guessing until the end, desperately hoping that this novel would not go the crappy Hollywood route. There is a town called Hollywood in Ireland, but this serial killer's spree gives it a wide berth.
West Dublin's own Garrison Keillor is community radio volunteer Brendan Nolan. The author of the non-fiction guidebook to the Phoenix Park, Nolan broadcasts once per week a new story that listeners have definitely not known about our town of Lucan on Liffey Sound 96.4 FM. I caught part of one, twiddling the knob once in N4 traffic.
Nolan's fiction is set in unspecified bygone years when elevators were manned by a lift assistant, children were satisfied playing with marbles, and it was normal to borrow sacks off the man who comes delivering coal should a body need to dispose of mad cats or feathers from the household turkey. If that is not strictly true, each selection feels like an event that may very well have happened in Lucan's neighborhoods far enough in the past to have become stretched into a small legend.
Some legends are larger than others. A highlight of Barking Mad is "I Kissed Rock Hudson." Frances, an Irish emigrant, returns from America with the claim to fame of having been Rock Hudson's babysitter. Then a man named Cyril moves into town, letting it be known that when he lived in Beverly Hills he was Tony Curtis's kissing coach. (Just as a swimming coach can be successful without getting into the water, Cyril had not actually kissed Tony Curtis himself.) A romance develops and a truth is revealed. Another memorable selection ("The Undead") involves a woman named Kathleen Dubh whose death notice appears in the paper, when in fact it was Kathleen Rua who had died. Complications ensure, involving a priest, a tiler and a sports fan. It's amusing and there's a good closing twist.
Those are the exception. Revisiting the table of contents after finishing the 165 pages, though, I can't recall a single detail from many titles. Half drawn characters, waffling prose, preposterous situations in which it was impossible to really suspend disbelief: perhaps they may have worked better with a good on-air performance than on the page. Maybe more than one week is required to conceive, craft and refine a memorable moment of short fiction.
Michael Loyd Gray's latest novel, Well Deserved shares the same fictional small Midwestern town with his second, December's Children- Argus, Illinois. It's old-fashioned small-town America, 1970. Think: Mayberry from The Andy Griffith Show, but with enough mustache on Opie that he can enjoy a Pabst at the VFW. Michael Loyd Gray gives us the American Midwest before giant heartless agribusinesses and crystal meth.
In 238 concise pages, four main characters meet and form powerful bonds: Jesse Archer, at twenty years old, drifts from day to day selling pot from his isolated trailer. Raul, a suntanned local son returning from Vietnam, is not quite ready to live within his parent's familiar walls again. Camping by the lake, he hears Jesse's Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane and Jimi Hendrix and they become buds over a few PBR's. Keeping an eye- though a more fatherly than suspicious one- on the pair of youngsters is the town's new Chief of Police, Art Millage. His face grazed by a bullet in his native Chicago, Art knows the malice inherent to this world and how close its wrath can come. Finally, there's the lovely, long-legged Nicole Michelle Beckert, cashier at Ferguson's IGA and the sharpest and most knowing of the four.
With its controlled substances and the chief cruising in his patrol car, Well Deserved works as crime fiction: not the hard boiled variety, but with normal people. Art knows well what Jesse is doing by the lake. He is not personally opposed to a puff of MJ himself, for one, and there's a recognition that the entire police force could comb those dense woods for weeks and never locate the stashed evidence. Jesse may be a dealer, but his motivations are not those most fictional drug-pushing gangters. He's a laid-back seventies guy, happy to let his hair grow long and just keep things turning over. A notion is building, as well, that it's time for him to get out of this game... if only he can. Along comes Raul, the feel of weapons familiar to his hands and nerves attunded to conflict. Slowly, Gray builds toward a climax.
I like the way he writes. Reading Well Deserved is like spending time hanging around a campfire with some friends. There's also a beautiful GTO with Sergeant Pepper's on the eight track, and a diner that serves potatoes spiced with a special, elusive ingredient. Argus in that week in 1970 is a great place to be.
Nature is red in tooth and claw. Scholars who have looked past A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving into what really happened with the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock will know: human history is equally savage, bloody and brutal.
George Franklin Feldman uses original written accounts and archaeological evidence to illustrate the barbarity that is often cartooned out of American history books. The European explorers we have named parks, highways, towns, counties and funky cars after were not on a five-year mission to seek out new life and new civilizations. The natives they encountered were far from unspoiled agrarians who would cry at the first sight of litter. In more than a dozen chapters stretching from prehistory to the Indian wars of the Western Frontier, Cannibalism, Headhunting and Human Sacrifice in North America: A History Forgotten highlights select warlike tribes, conquistadors, Puritans, and horrendous individual atrocities which show our lauded forefathers at their worst.
One example chapter covered the Calusa Indians of south-western Florida. Their name for themselves translated as "fierce people." They truly lived up to it. Whether dominating surrounding tribes or massacring Spanish sailors when treasure fleets wrecked upon the Florida Keys, the Calusa delighted in slavery, torture and human sacrifice. One young castaway, Hernando D'Escalante Fontaneda, was allowed to survive, and spent twenty years among them. Upon being released, Fontaneda returned to Spain and penned a memoir. Feldman brings its grisly details of life among the Calusa to modern readers. Diaries of missionaries, soldiers, and other original observers are extensively featured. The research supporting the chapter is impressive. These sources even convey an account of the first "mooning" in American history- of Catholic missionaries by the Calusa, who were firmly dedicated to their own religious beliefs! The author's interweaving prose is informed and engaging. A clear impression is conveyed concisely: the Calusa are the natives who shot Juan Ponce de Leon when he attempted to establish a colony in 1521, and whose savage ferocity held off Spanish might for two hundred more years.
Feldman's book is culturally balanced: equal barbarity is illustrated from Indian, English, American, Mexican and Spanish parties. To continue with Floridian examples, Feldman describes the expedition of a conquistador named Panfilo de Narvaez. His force was annihilated, and given their extreme violence, arrogance and inhumanity, that was no injustice. Reading what horrors these nations inflicted upon each other, it becomes easier to understand the genocide which occurred on this continent. Cannibalism, Headhunting and Human Sacrifice in North America lets us know what lessons from history modern man should never be repeating.
Potted plot: bristling with gun porn, a colorful bunch of enormous superbad cops and crooks charge around Washington DC and Virgina horse country. The...morePotted plot: bristling with gun porn, a colorful bunch of enormous superbad cops and crooks charge around Washington DC and Virgina horse country. There are conspiracies and posturing, heavy-handed hints that perhaps X or Y is the leak within the FBI. Last Man Standing has a love interest and at one point a hottie in a swimsuit, but very little bad langauge or sex. Oh! And a brief appearance by a topless porn star with breasts so enormous they almost hide her abdomen.
Highlights include a vintage Corvette convertable with BTO blasting out of its speakers as it races up I95. Most of the novel's fun bits were provided by Italian-American sidekick Paulie Romano. Also, an interesting hint at where super-secret undercover FBI men can hide documents in plain sight. The information on how the FBI's ultra-elite Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) train for missions was interesting. But did Baldacci have to leave every last bit of his research in the novel? The result is tedious and bloated.
Critical Mick says: Last Man Standing reads like a Jerry Bruckheimer / Michael Bay film that is so bad, it went beyond Straight-to-Video and into Straight-to-Novelization.
David and the Bear Lake Monster is the fourth in Linda Weaver Clarke's historical romance series set in Idaho's Bear Lake Valley around the turn of th...moreDavid and the Bear Lake Monster is the fourth in Linda Weaver Clarke's historical romance series set in Idaho's Bear Lake Valley around the turn of the last century. A young outlaw in the second book, David returns as an adult to the ranch of Gilbert and Melinda Roberts to thank them for the friendship and guidance that steered him toward the path of honest living. Love is the last thing on the hardworking David's mind, until he sees Paris, Idaho's local dance teacher Sarah.
Linda Weaver Clarke writes all-ages books similar to Laura Ingles Wilder's, mixing history with romance and lessons on what makes a strong relationship. An element of mystery and danger is present in the form of outlaws and the legendary local lake monster. Seasoned readers will foresee the outcome of the various plot lines, and may prefer books with more physical contact than a two-step at the town dance. Still, kids and Clarke fans are sure to enjoy this adventure set in 1912.
The Dark Place follows Karl Kane, the gritty, gripping detective introduced in 2008's Bloodstorm. This second in the series conforms to the familiar norms of the PI genre: after a teasing, terrifying prologue Kane is seen sitting in his sweltering office on Belfast's Hill Street. In walks a woman in trouble- this time, a teenaged heroin addict whose younger sister, Martina Ferris, has disappeared. The client is deperately worried and the cops are not interested in looking for a recovering junkie with a reputation for running away, so it is down to debt-ridden Kane to take the case.
Kane's investigation takes him through the underbelly of city and society, into peripheral contact with corrupt and outmatched cops, and into his own painful past. As bodies pile up and his enemies circle in, Karl Kane learns what is rotten and terrifying behind the respectable facades of the city's elite and institutions (literally, in certain cases!). Fans of the PI form will be pleased- and be pleased that Millar is not afraid to break conventions. By the climax, there is no predicting which way Millar is going to play it out.
The places that Kane goes on his journey are exceptionally dark. Imagine Philip Marlowe investigating the disappearances from Se7en or Saw. Marlowe would probably take the first flight back to LA, but Kane is a wee harcore Norn Iron man. Graphic and violent with more deviant sex than Val McDermid and the most convincing drug trip since Gene Kerrigan's The Midnight Choir, Millar's Belfast is worlds away from the catchy punk rock jaunt of Colin Bateman's Divorcing Jack.
Like Bateman, Millar leavens his grit with humor. With Martina Ferris missing and other young, violated bodies turning up, Kane cannot sit comfortably back hammering out his own manuscripts and studying the racing papers. Is it because old Karl is a valiant knight at heart? Erm, no. He cannot sit still because he is the only PI in all of crime fiction with raging hemorrhoids.
Piles aside, Millar's dialogue is sharp and fast. The writing has real originality. I had never before heard of the villain's disturbing MO, and the manner in which Kane learns the killer's identity is both plausible and something that would never have come from an American PI novel.
Undertow is the fourth Quigley/Kenny mystery, and its references to the sea follow with the certainty of waves. Misdeeds in the painful past- presumab...moreUndertow is the fourth Quigley/Kenny mystery, and its references to the sea follow with the certainty of waves. Misdeeds in the painful past- presumably in the previous installment, Missing Presumed Dead- take hold of Sarah Kenny, of reformed burglar Darren Wallace, of pregnant teenager Stacy Power- and drag them back into treacherous deep water.
Stacy Power visits QuicK's offices (in the same run-down Georgian house as a pirate radio station and a hospitalized lawyer) because her Slovak boyfriend, Orie Kavlar, has gone missing. It's only a few weeks until the baby arrives, and Orie would not have left her side unless something terrible had happened to him. In hopes that all will soon be sunny days again, she hands over the pension money her grandma had provided for a pram. As readers already know from the novel's gripping opening scenes, her Orie is not a friendly dolphin but a shark.
When not lying to Stacy about his nation of origin, Orie Kavlar serves as muscle for local gangster Anthony "Mink" Dunlop's human trafficking operation. Undertow, like Bleed a River Deep, explores the hidden laborers beneath Celtic Tiger Ireland's recently-popped prosperity. Without a passport or a friend, those who have been smuggled across the water in the backs of furniture vans find themselves shipwrecked on this island of Ireland- stranded, helpless, and watched over by strange native predators.
Sarah Kenny has troubles of her own. She lives in daily dread of a body washing ashore. John Quigley harbors tender feelings for Sarah, but cannot help but notice how hot a young redhead, Caoimhe Wallace, would look in a bikini. Other characters and crimes bob around like bathtoys in a drain's whirlpool. Steadily the current picks up speed and they all start to collide and spin in the race toward blackness.
Requiems for the Departed: Irish Crime, Irish Myths showcases magnificent stories of Ireland immemorial and unforgettable. May a perpetual light shine...moreRequiems for the Departed: Irish Crime, Irish Myths showcases magnificent stories of Ireland immemorial and unforgettable. May a perpetual light shine upon this legendary collection.
Rushdie pads his own diatribe of everything he hates about New York and America with reflections on creativity and destruction, repression and Cambridge, pop culture, classics, race, sex and Disney's Robin Hood, web design, Units, and plenty of dolls and puppet kings.
Potted plot: well-to-do middle-aged guy, tired of his wife, legs it over to New York and mumbles all sorts of profanities loud enough to get booted out of all-night diners. In kinky ways he shags a couple of twenty-something chicks whose names rhyme, after which he feels much better.
Amidst all the rationalization and wacky revelations, Fury contains some less-than-favorable comments about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This is never wise.
In its favor: Rushdie may be a lofty uberintellect who refuses to condescend to interaction with quirky American book nerds, but he is not above writing well about the baser human instincts. Fury contains a spot-on analysis of the different attitudes and practices toward oral sex in Britain and the US. Bill Clinton agrees!
Fave bit: Rushdie's descriptions of a hottie that literally stops traffic.
Crime fic fans can read Rushdie's book as a psychological thriller: is Professor Malik Solanka, during his blackouts, the "Concrete Killer" who has murdered three beautiful, privileged socialites? That thread of the novel plays out very slowly as Rushdie indulges in shock-value asides about necrophilia and incest. His mystery would have been improved by a giant crime-fighting giraffe. (I am not making this up. Fury would have been groundbreaking if there was a swift, silent detective who could peek over walls and hedges, spying in through the windows of upper-story flats. The public yearns to see a bite taken outta the inaccessible top bough of the Big Apple tree.)
This is being unfair to an ambitious and innovative novel, but Fury has no kindness for anyone.
Critical Mick says: Interesting if abrasive and slow-moving, Fury is the first Salman Rushdie novel that Critical Mick read and judged for himself. At points it feels like Chuck Palahniuk lite, American Psycho lite, F. Scott Fitzgerald lite. The dialog is weak and there is a lot of opinion being sold as revelatory truth. The pacing is random. In other points Fury engages and transports. If nothing else it is convincing portrait of New York immediately before September 11.
Abigail Rieley's Death on the Hill: The Killing of Celine Cawley is among the best...moreWealth! Power! Glamour! Lies! Sex! Death! Dog-related pick-up lines!
Abigail Rieley's Death on the Hill: The Killing of Celine Cawley is among the best of Irish True Crime books. Concise and every page interesting, this 2010 release from The O'Brien Press delivers the sad story of former model and businesswoman Celine Cawley and her husband Eamonn Lillis.
Taken in contrast to my previous read: Catherine and Friends: Inside the Investigation into Ireland's Most Notorious Murder. DotH carries a strong narriate, a tale told at an accessible level both to those who followed the trial in the newspapers and those who are completely unfamiliar. It has the details, the dialogue, the back and forth of the killing, the investigation and the courtroom. Best of all, it is even and respectful to all participants involved. No sides are taken, and no preaching on behalf of any side in the case's controversies. CaF jumped around, repeated itself, and assumed that readers already knew the details of the Nevin case- all to the background roar of old axes grinding.
(Naturally, though, this difference is to be expected: Rieley is a professional journalist and author. Pat Flynn is a retired policeman.)
For a fine example of everyday crime and punnishment among modern Ireland's elite, Abigail Rieley's Death on the Hill is recommended.
Shouldn't a mystery novel about a pathologist show a bit of cutting? Maybe a medical clue? Quirke plods through a 1950's Dublin...moreMore Elvis - Less Alvis
Shouldn't a mystery novel about a pathologist show a bit of cutting? Maybe a medical clue? Quirke plods through a 1950's Dublin February portraying a drunk who is trying not-so-very-hard to stay dried out. The other characters treat him like he is a detective. He is even summoned to meetings with a government minister who tells him to get off the case of a missing medical student. Why? It never struck me that Quirke had gotten any investigation into gear.
Speaking of gears: Quirke buys a very exclusive, very expensive English sportscar called an Alvis. The running joke is that he is a very poor driver. Amusing, original? Cough, sputter! Crash.
The same can be said of the plot. The baddie is obvious and the origin of his badness is bog-standard.
The real focus of Elegy for April is the setting of Dublin in its most repressed days. Everyone smokes, the weather is bad, people wear hats. An interesting part of Benjamin Black's 1950's: the heroes of the 1916 Rising are still very much alive, in influence if not in fact. Also: one character is the only African man in Dublin. There is some fresh material there, but its approach is deliberately distorted. Ordinary items are overdescribed in unsettling terms. This is a dramatization of Dublin on degraded black-and-white film where every frame is dim, and shot through a fisheye lens. There's no color, no fusion: nothing I'd really like to maintain from Quirke's era into our present one.
Unfortunately, here Quirke is. The BBC has commissioned a series. They will probably wheel out Brendan Gleeson in the title role: he's fantastic in every Irish crime flick. Reading Christine Falls and Elegy for April, though, I kept picturing the main character as cape-wearing, sour old Banville himself. (Except that Quirke doesn't go around exclaiming, in the third person, his own genius).
I hope they cast well Miss Isobel Galloway- the hot young redhead who Black/Banville wrote in as Quirke's totty. Crime novels never feel complete without a naked gingernut, though she alone cannot be enough to rate this tale of toads, bulls, and processed cheese sandwiches higher than two stars.
Critical Mick says: This is not the brilliant Irish crime fiction you are looking for. Move along! Move along!(less)