Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Review: A COOL BREEZE ON THE UNDERGROUND by Don Winslow

A Cool Breeze on the Underground (Neal Carey, #1)From the back of the book:
Carey is not your usual private eye. A graduate student at Columbia University, he grew up on the streets of New York, usually on the wrong side of the law. Then he met Joe Graham, a one-armed PI who introduced him to the Bank, an exclusive New England institution with a sideline in keeping its wealthy clients happy and out of trouble. The Bank wants Neal to put his skills to work in finding Allie Chase, the rebellious teenage daughter of a prominent senator, an assignment that takes Neal to London's underground punk scene, a violent netherworld where drugs run rampant and rage is the name of the game.

My Review:
Despite being written by Don Winslow (SAVAGES, POWER OF THE DOG etc.) the first book in the Neal Carey PI series doesn't read like a Don Winslow book. At least not initially.

I think too much emphasis was placed on developing Neal Carey's origin; the finer points to honing his craft as a deft private detective who could easily turn cat burglar or stalker extraordinaire. His relationship with Joe Graham, a one-armed PI who recruited Carey into the secret association, understandably added context to the present day setting, yet, this combined with extensive skills training did have a tendency to detract from what was really an entertaining and page-turning plot.

As a side note of interest, I love books that bring books in general into context within the main story and Winslow does just that here by using a rare book worth 20k to a collector as a means of introducing one of his character's into the world of drug running - where crime and fiction collide.

I got the feeling Winslow was just developing his voice in crime fiction yet A COOL BREEZE ON THE UNDERGROUND is no amateur feat. The dialogue is sharp, the characters have a voice of their own, and the plot is pretty damn good. With a couple nice twists to keep things interesting, A COOL BREEZE ON THE UNDERGROUND has me wanting to rush out and grab a copy of the follow-up in THE TRAIL TO BUDDHA'S WINDOW, the second book to feature Neal Carey.

Related Posts:

- Friday Finds (15 Aug 2014)

- Review: THE POWER OF THE DOG by Don Winslow

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Interview: Nadia Dalbuono (author of THE FEW)

Nadia DalbuonoNadia Dalbuono has spent the last fifteen years working as a documentary director and consultant for Channel 4, ITV, Discovery, and National Geographic in various countries. The Few is her first novel. *Bio from Scribe Publications website

Nadia was kind enough to stop by to answer some questions about her debut novel and provide an insight into what readers can expect from Scamarcio in future installments. 

Read my review of THE FEW.

(Josh) Where did the idea of THE FEW originate from and what crime writers inspired you to write crime fiction?

(Nadia) The idea for The Few came from the vast array of corruption and sex scandals I came across in the papers while working in Rome. Italy is fertile ground for such tales. Crime writers who have inspired me, include Michael Connelly, Linwood Barclay, John Le Carre, Patricia Highsmith and Stieg Larsson.

An interesting element in THE FEW was Scamarcio’s ties to the criminal underworld and his apprehensive nature towards blurring the cold blue lines of law enforcement for the betterment of justice. How important was it to introduce this side plot to THE FEW?

This side plot was important because given Italy's imperfect justice system I've always been interested in how people work effectively within such as compromised system. If you are dealing with a justice system that doesn't function does it force you into 'unjust' behaviour?

The Few THE FEW places a heavy emphasis on political corruption (more implied than explicit) and abuse of power. Is this a theme likely to be prevalent throughout the series?

The theme of political corruption and abuse of power will be a key theme running throughout the series.

What research did you undertake pertaining to the various types of crimes referenced in THE FEW?

I carried out general research through newspaper cuttings, TV news stories and conversations with various experts in the field.

Jurisdictional confrontations are rife throughout THE FEW and play an important part in proceedings. From Scamarcio’s involvement with Garramone to investigating a missing child case with Garramone. These scenarios are prominent through most crime fiction, why do you think it’s such a staple in the genre? 

I think jurisdictional confrontations are so prominent in crime fiction simply for the conflict they provide. Conflict is the oxygen of drama + these tussles supply the plot with vital momentum and sustained narrative development. They also challenge the protagonist and offer a chance for character development.

If you could sell THE FEW in one sentence, what would it be?

How do you fight for truth in a society without justice?

What are you working on and how soon will readers get to read more of Scamarcio and the intriguing career choices he has ahead of him?

I'm currently working on the sequel to The Few. Scamarcio is drawn into an uncomfortable investigation with far reaching international implications. The inquiry threatens to compromise his private life and he's forced to take some difficult decisions about his past. It's time for him to grow up and he ends this novel a changed person from the angry young man of THE FEW.

* * *

THE FEW is due to be published September 2014 (Scribe Publications).

Kindle edition available from 27 Aug 2014 from Amazon

Monday, August 18, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


This is a weekly meme hosted by Book Journey. In order to get some consistency to my posting I thought I’d jump on board this great idea. As a self-proclaimed bookaholic, I love talking about my books and finding out what others are reading. Having been a long time reader of multiple blogs where the ‘It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?’ post is prevalent, I thought it a natural progression I’d add to the mix. Here are my intended picks for this coming week, including what I’ve got on-the-go today:

Quick
QUICK by Steve Worland (review copy provided by Penguin Australia)

Strap in for a breathtaking, tyre-peeling, high-octane adventure ride by rising star of action trillers.

Melbourne, Australia: Round one of the Formula One World Championship. Billy Hotchkiss no longer races a V8 Supercar, but that doesn't mean he's lost the need for speed. When the young cop uncovers a diamond heist in progress he leaps into action and almost captures the thieves single-handedly.

Lyon, France: Interpol are convinced the criminals are somehow connected to Formula One. And they think this Australian ex-race driver is just the guy to stop them.

Sent undercover with an unwilling French partner, Billy is thrust into the glamorous world of international motor racing. But as the duo closes in on the thieves they soon expose a far more sinister threat.

With the fate of a city and the lives of one hundred thousand people in the balance, Billy must drive like never before to stop the worst act of terror since 9/11.


See You TomorrowSEE YOU TOMORROW by Tore Renberg (review copy provided by Arcadia Books)

Pal has a shameful secret that has dragged him into huge debt, and he is desperate that his teenage daughters and ex-wife don't find out. Sixteen-year-old Sandra also has a secret. She's in love with the delinquent Daniel William, a love so strong and pure that nothing can get in its way. Cecilie has the biggest secret of them all, a baby growing inside her. But she's trapped in her small-time, criminal existence, and dreams of an escape from it all. Over three fateful September days, these lives cross in a whirlwind of brutality, laughter, tragedy, and love that will change them forever. A fast-paced, moving, and darkly funny page-turner.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Advance Review: BITE HARDER by Anonymous-9

Bite HarderFrom the back of the book:
Some say he's a serial killer. Others, a vigilante doing what police can't or won't do. What's certain is that Dean Drayhart, a paraplegic, will soon sit on death row for killing hit-and-run drivers in Los Angeles. But not if the Mexican Mafia gets hold of him first. Somewhere, Dean's trained companion monkey Sid and girlfriend Cinda are outrunning the law in a fast '98 Trans Am. The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department wants Sid, dead or alive. Dean may be broken in body but his fierce spirit is determined to protect Sid and Cinda in the most creative ways imaginable.

My Review:
The murderous mayhem continues where HARD BITE left off in a tale of vengeance, redemption, death, and loss. Equal parts humanist and animal instinct, author Anonymous-9 delivers another shot of pure pulp goodness.

The lead character Dean Drayhart, a paraplegic as a result of a hit and run that also ripped his family apart, is further explored via flashbacks of his former family life. The omnipresent sense of sadness and sloping slide towards acceptance really give Dean a completely three dimensional feel. He's no longer the tortured soul hell bent on revenge, rather, he's more about preserving the lives of those close to him, Sid (helper monkey) included, as he struggles to free himself of the shackles of the Mexican Mafia.

Where HARD BITE focused on Dean's quest to rid the demons of his past by becoming an unlikely serial killer, BITE HARDER targets Dean as the victim of the Mexican Mafia's blood lust as a result of Dean having murdered one of their own. It's a nice flip of the script from the books' predecessor.

BITE HARDER is a lethal mix of black humour, heart, and hard bites. A self contained story that fits in with a broad spanning pulp narrative that leaves room for further installments while still delivering a satisfying read of a uniquely engrossing vigilante.

Hard BiteIf you haven't read HARD BITE, go buy a copy HERE from Amazon.

Read my review of HARD BITE HERE.

BITE HARDER is also available to pre-order HERE.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Review: THE FEW by Nadia Dalbuono

The FewFrom the back of the book:
Detective Leone Scamarcio, the son of a former leading Mafioso, has turned his back on the family business, and has joined the Rome police force. He may be one of the last honest men in Italy.

But when Scamarcio is handed a file of extremely compromising photographs of a highprofile Italian politician, and told to ‘deal with it’, he knows he’s in for trouble. And when a young man is found stabbed to death in Rome, and a young American girl disappears on a beach in Elba, Scamarcio’s job gets a whole lot more complicated.

Worst of all, every lead seems to implicate the prime minister — a multi-media baron, and the most powerful man in Italy.

As the case spins out of control, and his own past catches up with him, Scamarcio must navigate the darkest currents of Italian society — only to find that nothing is as it seems, and that the price of truth may be higher than he can pay

My Review:
THE FEW is an Italian police procedural that maintains a constant mystery throughout – though it’s not the murder of a rent-boy that captivated me, rather the person pulling the chief of police’s strings; a mysterious handler dictating terms and using sheer political power in their pursuit of their intended version of the truth.

For Detective Scamarcio and his superior Garramone, the murder of a male prostitute (or rent boy as referred to in THE FEW) looms as a career defining case, one that leaves no stone unturned as it unearths the sect known as The Few. With severe ramifications hanging over the heads of many, the case threatens to destroy more than it can possibly save.

Detective Scamarcio is an interesting character; one constantly conflicted by his criminal heritage and law abiding occupation. It’s something that the character tries to distinguish himself from, toting the line of cop over Mafioso. Despite his best intentions the lives bleed into one another to formulate an interesting dynamic and complementary secondary plot.

The case evolves and morphs into a larger all-encompassing criminal investigation that spans sex trafficking, kidnapping, and murder among other heinous crimes. Tying the narrative together is the continued icy-at-times relationship between Scamarcio and his superior in chief of police Garramone. I enjoyed the constant shroud of mystery surrounding Garramone’s motives and the kept-in-the-dark Scamarcio’s battle to perform his duty. Not only is Scamarcio up against a disturbing case, he’s also fighting against internal police bureaucracy.

While it felt like THE FEW took a little while to gain momentum following an entertaining opening, I can see the rationale behind building the caseload and establishing the interlocking crimes to form a broader picture. Author Nadia Dalbuono has written a decent first up police procedural that has me interested in further series instalments.

Friday Finds (15 Aug 2014)


Friday Finds is a weekly meme hosted by Should Be Reading where you share the book titles you discovered or heard about during the past week. These can be books you were told about, books you discovered while browsing blogs/bookstores online, or books that you actually purchased. I think this is a great idea and a way to share my enthusiasm of discovering new books.

Bones Never Lie: (Temperance Brennan 17)BONES NEVER LIE by Kathy Reichs (It's been a while since I've read a book by Kathy Reichs, as a result I haven't been keeping in touch with her series. Random House kindly provided me a copy of this and I'm looking forward to jumping back into the world of Temperance Brennan).

A match was obtained on DNA sample 7426 to Canadian national number 64899, identified as:

Anique Pomerleau, White/Female

DOB: 12/10/75

The subject is currently not in custody.

For a decade, Temperance Brennan has been haunted by the monster.

Anique Pomerleau. Killer of young women. The one who got away.

The one who has now come back.

Feeding on fear, grief and rage.

Killing again. Killing girls.

Getting closer.

Coming for Tempe.


The Trail to Buddha's Mirror (Neal Carey, #2)The Trail to Buddha's Mirror by Don Winslow (the second book in the Neal Carey series. I've recently started reading A COOL BREEZE ON THE UNDERGROUND and will need to add this one to my 'wishlist').

Book two of the Neal Carey mystery series: PI Neal Carey is back on the hunt—this time on a chase across the back alleys and backwoods of China in pursuit of a missing scientist and his beautiful mistress

After a case gone bad, all PI Neal Carey wants to do is drop off the face of the earth. Instead, he’s asked to travel halfway around the world in pursuit of an AWOL scientist who’s taken a lucrative chemical formula to China. When Carey learns the scientist has fallen in love and shacked up with a beautiful woman, he figures he’ll solve the case in no time. But in the twisting streets of Hong Kong and vast reaches of China’s wilderness, Carey finds secrets that run deeper than a simple love affair—secrets that threaten to once again tear his life apart.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Review: THE FEVER by Megan Abbott

The FeverFrom the back of the book:
The Nash family is close-knit. Tom is a popular teacher, father of two teens: Eli, a hockey star and girl magnet, and his sister Deenie, a diligent student. Their seeming stability, however, is thrown into chaos when Deenie's best friend is struck by a terrifying, unexplained seizure in class. Rumors of a hazardous outbreak spread through the family, school and community.

As hysteria and contagion swell, a series of tightly held secrets emerges, threatening to unravel friendships, families and the town's fragile idea of security.
 
My Review:
Sweetly seductive and delicately deadly, Megan Abbott's THE FEVER is noir personified in a setting not typically associated with the genre. Who knew teenage girls could be so noir?
 
This is the third book by Megan Abbott focusing on teenage girls and it is just as good as THE END OF EVERYTHING and DARE ME, if not better.
 
What really struck me with THE FEVER was the undercurrent of poison amongst the seemingly innocent world of teenage girls. This unsuspecting venom packs a punch that renders a smooth and happy facade brittle and dark. Each of Deenie's friends in her inner circle, Deenie included, are capable and culpable of treachery.  
 
I would love to see Megan Abbott write a horror novel; I kept picturing the lake in THE FEVER as this omnipresent malevolent force drawing people towards it only to drag them under the thick soupy surface to their horrific end.
 
THE FEVER is a multi faceted tale that is not to be missed. Another great read from Megan Abbott.