If he keeps writing them, I'll keep reading them. Even at their worst -- and this one wasn't one of the strongest entries in the series -- they are beIf he keeps writing them, I'll keep reading them. Even at their worst -- and this one wasn't one of the strongest entries in the series -- they are better than most other crime fiction out there. And I think, in this case, the title of the novel -- The Crossing -- was appropriate, as it seemed like a transition of sorts from ongoing plot threads from previous novels and going into future ones....more
I really wanted to like this, and I'm not entirely sure why I didn't. I love detective stories, roguish anti-heroes, and New Orleans. I loved Will PatI really wanted to like this, and I'm not entirely sure why I didn't. I love detective stories, roguish anti-heroes, and New Orleans. I loved Will Patton's narration. But something about the story just seemed to fall in the uncanny valley -- it was too unbelievable to be realistic, but too realistic to accept as a noir or camp style decision. Also -- and this may have contributed to it feeling "too" realistic -- it seemed overwritten and unnecessarily descriptive at points. I couldn't even finish it, having left off at a critical plot moment (view spoiler)[Robicheaux, who was just force-fed drugs and alcohol, is trapped in a car with another beaten law enforcement officer that is dangling off the edge of a parking garage (hide spoiler)]....more
In the same way non-inquisitors are not supposed to ask questions in this novel's setting, readers shouldn't ask too many questions, lest the thin facIn the same way non-inquisitors are not supposed to ask questions in this novel's setting, readers shouldn't ask too many questions, lest the thin facade Lethem built crash down and reveal his underdeveloped world building. Questions such as how society came to a point with such controlled media, freely available addictive drugs, evolved animals and "babyheads," and yet so few other technological advancements. Altered Carbon takes a similarly noir approach to science fiction, but Richard K. Morgan's universe feels real and lived in, while this feels like an Old Hollywood set.
Also, do women really need to be slapped in the face in every noir book? Was it not already clear this was noir inspired without that? And this from the P.I. that was gender transformed to have female sexual responses, a confusing subplot that did not serve the story in the least. Seriously, why even mention it? Just to make the story needlessly weirder? Or are we supposed to believe his attitude at the end of the book -- which made no sense -- was in some way related to not being a full, complete male? I think that may be overanalyzing a text that isn't that deep. The end really wanted to have the gravitas of 1984, but it just didn't feel earned in the least. (view spoiler)[In the few years he was asleep, he watched society degrade drastically, including near complete transformations of the few people he knew from before. And we are supposed to believe he was okay with going back in the freezer and reemerging years later again, with some naive idea it may somehow get better on its own? (hide spoiler)]
Don't get the idea I hated this book from my above criticism. It was okay, as long as you don't expect too much from it. But it is definitely not the best example of noir, science fiction, or dystopian literature, although it is a fairly interesting, if underdeveloped, mix of all three....more
Of the three books in the series, this one is, by far, the most personal for its protagonists. Not only is the crime the novel centered on a personalOf the three books in the series, this one is, by far, the most personal for its protagonists. Not only is the crime the novel centered on a personal vendetta against Strike, leaving him to hunt down multiple demons from his past to narrow potential suspects, there is a lot of personal baggage being dealt with by Robin ahead of her marriage to Matthew. While the mystery was a bit more convoluted and a bit less intriguing than the previous two novels, that is offset by how much is learned about both Strike and Robin's histories. ...more
Joe Pickett, Wyoming game warden and stand up family man, gets involved in something way above his pay grade when a three local hunters turn up dead,Joe Pickett, Wyoming game warden and stand up family man, gets involved in something way above his pay grade when a three local hunters turn up dead, one in Pickett's own yard. Pickett is not cop, detective, or sheriff, and while educated about the things he would be -- mostly game and guns -- multiple murders are considerably outside his area of expertise. I don't want to say any more and spoil anything, but the mystery kept me guessing a while (view spoiler)[I couldn't decide if it was former game warden Vern Dunnegan or the game warden from the next county over, Wacey Hedeman, it never occurred to me it was both of them. (hide spoiler)].
One final unrelated thought -- author C.J. Box did an excellent job when he switched to Pickett's daughter Sheridan's point-of-view. Writing a realistic six-year-old girl is no easy task....more
This being the twelfth book in the Longmire series, I have officially run out of superlatives for its' entries. The quality of the stories hasn't beguThis being the twelfth book in the Longmire series, I have officially run out of superlatives for its' entries. The quality of the stories hasn't begun to waver in the least -- this is actually one of the strongest in the series yet -- and the author's commitment to advancing the character's stories in organic, yet significant ways keeps impressing me, as nobody wants to read a series this long where Status Quo is God. And man, with the unexpected and gut wrenching event halfway through this book, that just can't be said here. If you haven't yet read any of these books, do yourself a favor and start back at the beginning with The Cold Dish, as this series is so much better read in order....more
This fifth installment of Ace Atkins' Quinn Colson series gives a lot of closure to things that have been escalating in Tibbehah County, Mississippi sThis fifth installment of Ace Atkins' Quinn Colson series gives a lot of closure to things that have been escalating in Tibbehah County, Mississippi since The Ranger, the first novel in the series.
Quinn has been voted out of office as the county's sheriff and has some loose ends to tie up -- both personally and professionally -- before he decides his next move. Events now out of Quinn's control start to escalate very quickly around him, and as is so often the case, they get worse before they get better. By his side is his former deputy Lillie Virgil, his ex-girlfriend/current lover Anna Lee Stevens, his lifelong friend Boom, and his dysfunctional family, including his drug addled sister Caddy. In the dark shadows of his titty bar rest stop, as always, is Johnny Stagg.
This series keeps getting better, and is one of the few I read as it's released -- the others being Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch series and Craig Johnson's Walt Longmire series. Atkins' talents with his characters, dialogue, setting, and plot are the work of a master storyteller at the top of his game, and I very much look forward to see where he goes next, especially after some intriguing hints at the end of this novel.
Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a review. ...more
There is nobody writing crime fiction that does it better than Connelly does. At this point in the series, most authors would be mailing in rote and tThere is nobody writing crime fiction that does it better than Connelly does. At this point in the series, most authors would be mailing in rote and tired copies of previous books, but Bosch just keeps evolving. It helps that Bosch is aging in real time, and his wisdom has begun to show in his work and the relationships with those around him -- specifically his teenage daughter and the new partner he is in charge of mentoring. Add to that the multiple cold case mysteries woven through this book, and an excellent ending -- not the climax, which was good but rushed, but the actual last few pages -- and you have another top-notch police procedural and another compelling chapter in Harry Bosch's life against crime....more
I enjoyed this second installment of the Cormoran Strike series as much as the first, The Cuckoo's Calling. Beyond having another compelling mystery,I enjoyed this second installment of the Cormoran Strike series as much as the first, The Cuckoo's Calling. Beyond having another compelling mystery, which was set in the exquisitely interesting and cutthroat world of book publishing, there was a great deal of character growth for both Cormoran and his assistant Robin. This novel very much left me looking forward to reading Career of Evil, the third in the ongoing series....more
As a mystery fan, I had been meaning to check this series out for a while. But it wasn't until I spent a rainy weekend in Napa and took temporary shelAs a mystery fan, I had been meaning to check this series out for a while. But it wasn't until I spent a rainy weekend in Napa and took temporary shelter in a lovely used bookstore that I saw a paperback copy and finally picked it up. It may be my best used bookstore impulse buy ever, and I have made quite a few of those.
There is not much new I can add to the conversation about the mystery handled by Arizona Navajo Tribal Police Lt. Joe Leaphorn in this novel, being that was originally published in 1970, but I will say two things. First, this holds up really well considering it was written forty-five years ago. Second, this is a really tight mystery -- while there is some minimal character development, and the setting gets an occasional nod -- the focus is almost entirely on the mystery at hand, which also ties into the Navajo customs of Leaphorn and the people he polices. The minimal style, which tells a complete, satisfying story in under 300 pages, reminded me of some other twentieth century writing legends -- Richard Stark (a.k.a. Donald E. Westlake) and Elmore Leonard, in particular....more
For as much as I like Stephen King, I was not sure it was within his raThe stories I read from this collection are:
'The Doctor's Case' by Stephen King
For as much as I like Stephen King, I was not sure it was within his range to write a Sherlock Holmes story. And while the reader can see the license he took with the characters, I was left fairly impressed with this result. The highlight of this story is its premise -- King has Watson solve this case ahead of Holmes, something that never happened in the canon.
'The Shocking Affair of the Dutch Steamship Friesland' by Mary Robinette Kowal
This was an interesting take on a case that was alluded to in the Holmes canon, told from the point-of-view of a young woman entangled in the mystery. It wasn't a very strong mystery, but the chance to see Holmes and Watson through the perspective of a suspect/victim was interesting.
'A Study in Emerald' by Neil Gaiman
This story was very different from the others that I read in that this heavily featured the fantastic, an element lacking in the other, more traditional Holmes pastiches I read. It is the perfect short story for anyone into Neil Gaiman, Sherlock Holmes and the Cthulu mythos. It is no surprise to me this won a Hugo award for short fiction. ...more
Not only does this book continue the narrative of Tibbehah County after the devastating tornadoes that made up the climax of the previous installment,Not only does this book continue the narrative of Tibbehah County after the devastating tornadoes that made up the climax of the previous installment, The Broken Places, it travels back to a murder that occurred thirty years ago that Quinn is now investigating -- a murder that his father may have been somehow involved in.
This series keeps getting better and better. It is so good that when this book was released, it jumped right to the front of my to-read list, and it did not disappoint. This is definitely the work of an author at the height of his creative powers. Highly recommended....more
I added this to my to my ever lengthening to-read shelf based on this Buzzfeed listicle that said "if you loved The Westing Game, you should read RobiI added this to my to my ever lengthening to-read shelf based on this Buzzfeed listicle that said "if you loved The Westing Game, you should read Robin Sloan's Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore."
I loved it. I honestly can't praise it highly enough. The book's pacing was great, brisk but never unbearably so, the cast of eclectic characters were each more charming than the next, there was real tension and mystery, but also a lighthearted humor running through the entire novel. I will definitely be buying it as a present for more than one person -- basically anyone that likes books, mysteries, and whimsy.
I will leave you with this excellent -- and spoiler free -- quote from near the end of the book: "All the secrets in the world worth knowing are hiding in plain sight."...more
This book was a return to form after the last entry in the series, A Serpent's Tooth, didn't meet my highest expectations of the Walt Longmire series.This book was a return to form after the last entry in the series, A Serpent's Tooth, didn't meet my highest expectations of the Walt Longmire series. The plot was tight, the characters diverse, the mystery elusive, and the subplot of Walt's daughter's giving birth created a tension -- can Walt crack the case in time to fly to Philadelphia for his grandchild's birth? -- to the entire book. This volume also ties up some loose ends (view spoiler)[how Vic and Walt's relationship was affected by Vic's gunshot wound abortion and inability to have children (hide spoiler)] and left some possibilities for the future of the series (view spoiler)[the revelation that Tomas Bidarte is alive and put out a hit on Walt (hide spoiler)]....more
This article, about author David Gordon being famous in Japan and not even realizing it, made me curious enough to read the book that made him an acciThis article, about author David Gordon being famous in Japan and not even realizing it, made me curious enough to read the book that made him an accidental, foreign celebrity.
The book starts with a really great, memorable opening, including this line -- which isn't the first line of the book, but the last line of the first chapter:
It all began the morning when, dressed like my dead mother and accompanied by my fifteen-year-old schoolgirl business partner, I opened the letter from death row and discovered that a serial killer was my biggest fan.
That hook follows a bit of preamble, including this line, which is the first line of the book:
The first sentence of a novel is the most important, except maybe for the last, which can stay with you after you've shut the book, the way the echo of a closing door follows you down the hall.
These two lines should give you an idea of both the humor in the book, and how it plays with the narrative structure, as the narrator, Harry Bloch, is a writer of pulp genre fiction novels. His bibliography, all written under pen names, includes an erotic space opera series, an erotic detective series starring a black man from Harlem, and an erotic vampire series.
It becomes quite interesting to note that Bloch discusses, near the end of the story, how writing the middle of his books is the trickiest part, after I had -- naturally -- already finished the middle of the book and thought it dragged a bit. It seemed like a bit of a postmodern mea culpa.
But this slight drag in the middle is more a speed bump than an impediment. This story is well worth the read. The opening scenes, introducing the characters in Bloch's struggling existence, are funny and occasionally poignant, and the meat of the story, when Bloch's agreement to ghostwrite a serial killer's memoirs turns dark, is captivating. And the crux of the mystery was sufficiently tricky -- which was impressive and a bit infuriating, as Bloch points out more than once that the clues are already laid out in what he has already written to discover exactly whodunnit before he reveals it.
Another narrative twist is that about half a dozen chapters of the novel are chapters from these various pulp novels, interspersed throughout the narrative. While they aren't necessary to the story, or allude to events that are concurrently happening, they give Bloch's character some depth since it gives an idea the kind of writer he is. For any reader not enjoying these brief infrequent intermissions, know they can be skipped with no loss whatsoever to the main story.
Finally, I feel compelled to mention the narrator of the audiobook, Bronson Pinchot, as I listened to this book. I would deduct a star from this book solely for its narration (although I did not, as I didn't want to punish the author for this shortcoming). Despite Pinchot being a professional actor, his voice work is lacking, at best. He gave Harry Bloch a whine that made the first person narrative difficult to listen to at points, and every female character sounded like Mickey Rourke in drag. While I would heartily recommend this book, especially to fans of the genre books it plays with, I would not recommend the audio version....more
I added this book to my to-read shelf after reading this article, 'The top 10 crime novels in translation.' And to that, after finishing it, I say gooI added this book to my to-read shelf after reading this article, 'The top 10 crime novels in translation.' And to that, after finishing it, I say good call, Guardian!
This was an intriguing tale of the murder of a hotel doorman who dressed as Santa Clause for hotel holiday events, and was found, in the basement room of the hotel where he squatted, wearing the top half of his Santa costume and nothing but a condom on his bottom half. It had a likable, if tortured, protagonist in Detective Erlunder, and an enjoyable mystery, which was very cozy in that despite everyone's ability to come and go from the hotel as they pleased, the detective himself never left until after solving the crime, actually sleeping in a room of the hotel and eating at their buffet for the duration of the mystery.
I'm deducting a star for the story lingering on a few unnecessary plot diversions that didn't really take away from the story, but didn't add much either (view spoiler)[The secondary case the other detective was working, the flashbacks to Erlunder's tragic childhood past, the romantic subplot involving the crime scene technician, etc. (hide spoiler)]. But all in all, I would recommend this story, especially to those that already like Nordic crime fiction, such as The Millennium Trilogy, The Keeper of Lost Causes, and The Hypnotist.
A final note: While the book's title doesn't make much sense from reading the dust jacket blurb of the book, it is actually fairly central to the story's theme and will make much more sense after reading....more
While there were a lot of interesting aspects to this addition to the series, there were also a lot of little niggling things that bothered me. ThereWhile there were a lot of interesting aspects to this addition to the series, there were also a lot of little niggling things that bothered me. There isn't too much I can say without spoiling the story, but here are a few random thoughts (all of which may have mild spoilers, although I will hide any bigger spoilers):
- Walt went around punching people all book, didn't arrest those that were clearly guilty, and the one guy he did sort-of arrest, he let slip from his control multiple times. Walt was definitely carrying the idiot ball this book.
- The relationship between Walt and Vic that had been glacially developed in fits and spurts over the course of multiple books suddenly took a huge leap forward to a cliffhanging revelation (view spoiler)[There was a huge love-fest confessional between the two of them right before the climax, and then boom, Vic went and got gut shot and her pregnancy, which Walt had not known about, was terminated. Of course, this is exactly where this book leaves off with this relationship. (hide spoiler)].
- Henry Standing Bear, proprietor of the Red Pony Bar, rode along with Walt for most of this book as some sort of volunteer unpaid deputy -- almost taking the role of Dog. I love The Bear's character, and enjoyed spending the extra time with him, but usually he is inserted into the plot more deftly than this, and to greater effect.
- The Powder Junction deputies' plot line(s) were handled awkwardly, although I did enjoy seeing more Double Tough in this book (view spoiler)[And I don't mean that they killed a character, which adds a certain element of gravitas to the series -- even though Frymire was a tertiary character at best -- I mean that they burned Double Tough and had him miraculously survive, only to have Frymire murdered unceremoniously less than a day later. It was an oddly handled bait-and-switch; we got the unearned death of Frymire instead of the earned death of Double Tough. I did like how that plays into Double Tough's macho man nature, though. (hide spoiler)].
- I wish the Mormon splinter cult was explored in greater detail, instead of the left turn that plot-line took (view spoiler)[They wound up being an oblivious front for an illegal oil drilling operation that was siphoning off the Bakken pipeline (hide spoiler)]. Also, the action movie ending didn't fit the tone of the rest of the series (view spoiler)[Especially them not being able to find the body of the bad guy after he'd been shot so many times. That felt like a cheap sequel set-up for a Die Hard movie. (hide spoiler)].
- Did the CIA need to be involved in any way in this already convoluted plot? And did the random rancher that showed up in the beginning really need to turn out to be retired CIA to facilitate that load of coincidences?
- On a less serious note, I loved the introduction of Van Ross Lynear, the crazy patriarch of the Lynear family, that was building spaceships in his yard, and was sure this amazing locale would be revisited for the final showdown, but alas, it was not to be. (view spoiler)[Lynear just fell of his roof naked and died, and the plot-line disappeared completely. (hide spoiler)].
Now that I look back up at that lengthy list, I realize it could be misconstrued that I disliked this book, but that isn't true. I enjoyed it a good deal, I just have high expectations for this series after so many quality entries, and all in all, I think Johnson may have bitten off a bit more than he could chew here. The numerous characters, and their many intertwining actions over the course this book created a bit of dissonance with the overarching theme of parent/child relationships, which is even found in the title, taken from Shakespeare's King Lear:
How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is To have a thankless child.
This book sauntered along at its own leisurely pace, despite a plot that had Bernie performing multiple jobs in succession while puzzling out the trutThis book sauntered along at its own leisurely pace, despite a plot that had Bernie performing multiple jobs in succession while puzzling out the truth of a curious death. But things did eventually accelerate and come together, and the ending was punctuated by an excellent, if not original, summation gathering.
There was a bit of burgling at the beginning, with Carolyn assisting no less, but that was followed by a lull in the middle of the book filled with a number of meandering conversations between Bernie and a number of people -- including an invitation for assistance from police officer and former nemesis Ray Kirschman, a flirtation with the hostess at an Asian restaurant Bernie and Carolyn order from, a historical lesson on early American silver from a wealthy shut-in who has an item Bernie fancies, and a fascinating look at collecting from Bernie's button-hoarding client. There were also nods to other crime authors and a few sexual interludes. While this may not sound like the meatiest content for a book about a part-time burglar and accidental amateur sleuth, these languid moments in between the jobs and the reveals are what humanizes Bernie, making him so tangible and real, despite how stylized the New York City he lives in is.
As with most things Lawrence Block, I highly recommend this quick, light read. Also, note that Amazon Prime members can borrow this from the Kindle Lending Library for free, making it just that much more compelling....more
This book started out needlessly verbose, and languished far too long on its tour of Plum Island, which encompassed six chapters and over 100 pages alThis book started out needlessly verbose, and languished far too long on its tour of Plum Island, which encompassed six chapters and over 100 pages alone (view spoiler)[And had almost nothing to do with the actual mystery. This showed a hell of a commitment to a red herring, or an inability of the author to pass up sharing research he did on the island (hide spoiler)]. Add to that, the main character, NYPD detective John Corey, was as irritating and grating to me as the book's first-person narrator as he was to every single character in the book, even the ones he was trying to sleep with.
At one point, these complaints almost led me to abandon the book, unfinished, which is something I rarely do, but, in hindsight, I am glad I didn't. The story began to slowly pick up, building steady momentum as it unfolded, and led to a hell of a crescendo in the final act. I would definitely recommend this book, with the caveat that it is a bit of an investment at a lengthy 600 pages, but taken in its entirety, is a very satisfying mystery that is worth the investment. I hope John Corey turned down the snide commentary in future books though, as he was a bit much to take....more
Coming after Hell Is Empty, the previous book in the Walt Longmire Mysteries series, this book is a bit of a let down. But that is not much of a knockComing after Hell Is Empty, the previous book in the Walt Longmire Mysteries series, this book is a bit of a let down. But that is not much of a knock, as that book was near perfect.
In this one, sheriff Longmire is preparing -- poorly -- for his daughter's impending wedding and out-of-town in-laws arrival, when he and Henry Standing Bear witness a woman fall off a cliff and die. The death occurring on Rez land leads to confrontations with new tribal police chief Lolo Long, a peyote ceremony with Longmire as the guest of honor, and the involvement of the FBI -- including Walt's old friend Cliff Cly.
While I figured out certain aspects of the mystery quicker than the protagonist, I did not figure out whodunit until the simultaneously tense and satisfying big reveal....more
I got a copy of this story early, and for free, by pre-ordering Connelly's upcoming novel The Gods of Guilt, which was a no-brainer, as I was planningI got a copy of this story early, and for free, by pre-ordering Connelly's upcoming novel The Gods of Guilt, which was a no-brainer, as I was planning to buy that the day it came out regardless.
This short story featuring LAPD detective Harry Bosch on a cold case is more proof -- as if any was needed -- that the well for great Bosch stories is far from running dry....more
While I didn't always love the experience of reading this novel, I am glad to have read it, if only for the fictional glimpse of Soviet Russia duringWhile I didn't always love the experience of reading this novel, I am glad to have read it, if only for the fictional glimpse of Soviet Russia during the Cold War. I didn't enjoy how drawn out the book became after such an intriguing start. But then, I was only expecting a police procedural set in Russia. This novel was much, much more -- a cat and mouse game, a story of fugitives and bandits, a view of Soviet "justice," a story of torture, a social commentary on America by a Russian narrator, a political thriller, and a love story. So while certain parts of it dragged, I can't really fault it for all its ambition. Also, this book taught me a colloquial Russian phrase that seems to be appropriate in almost any situation, "fuck your mother." So hooray for this book expanding my worldliness, and fuck your mother....more