Monday, August 14, 2017

Review: THE FORCE by Don Winslow

Publisher Harper Collins
Length 498 pages
Format softcover
Published 2017
Series standalone
My Copy I bought it

My Review
The Force is an excellent book. 

Really, there's nothing more to say other than that one sentence but for the sake of reviewing, I'll provide some commentary;

As the synopsis indicates, The Force is about corrupt cops, criminals, and elected officials bending the law to serve a fit for purpose justice system that is as rotten as the morals of the fictitious kings who run the streets. 

The cornerstone is Denny Malone, head of Da Force, an elite special unit that does whatever it takes to ensure justice is dispensed, rightly or wrongly. The book follows his trajectory in a displaced time-capsule-like narrative from beat cop to rat, spilling a whole lot of blood along the way. 

Denny as a character is flawed and exceptionally well written; author Don Winslow goes to great lengths to give Denny a story that's deep and tragic - from his formative police years through to his failed marriage, to the unmistakable bond he shares with his fellow officers - there's a richness to his story which makes The Force all the more better. 

With a subject matter such as this, a happy Hollywood ending was never on the cards; it's this darkness that resonates with the reader long after the last page has turned. 

My rating: 5/5, one of the best crime fiction books of 2017.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Review: KILLING IS MY BUSINESS by Adam Christopher

Publisher Tor Books
Length 288 pages
Format ebook
Published 2017
Series Ray Electromatic Mysteries #2
My Copy provided by the publisher

My Review
Ray is the last of his kind, having rolled off the production line before the robotic business went bust for good. Now he's a hitman moonlighting as a private detective. Accompanied by his handler, Ada, a supercomputer, Ray earns a living taking the lives of others. Sounds cold and dark but Ray is anything but.

The follow-up to Made to Kill, gives the character added depth and makes him more likable than ever, which is saying something considering the book opens up with Ray on a stakeout watching his next victim waiting for the opportune kill moment.   

Killing is my Business has an engaging story-line complimented by the fact that Ray has to download information every day given his memory stack fills each day and requires a reboot. Each day is a first for Ray - with just enough information to go on to get the job done. This a particularly important cog in the machine as it contributes heavily to some key plot elements, notably in the later stages of the book.

The thing I really like about Killing is my Business, is the way the author, Adam Christopher infuses doubt into the story. Doubt over the contract Ray's been hired, doubt over Ada's intentions, doubt over Ray himself; this is all mixed with a twisting plot that goes much deeper than a typical P.I book. 

My rating: 4/5 stars. 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Pick of the Month [July 2017]

I've definitely hit my mid-year reading mojo. July was another great month where I finished 17 books across a variety of genres and mediums. Reading different books keeps my hopelessly addictive hobby fresh and exciting. I often find reading the same kind of book too many times makes a genre feel stale so it's good to mix things up a little, as per a Recent Reads Post

For the third time this year my pick of the month selection is multiple books but I've narrowed it down to 2 (I could have easily picked more) and, as with the theme of this post, they couldn't be any more different from one another. 

Spiderlight by Adrian Tchaikovsky is a fantasy adventure novel focused on an unlikely band of heroes as they traverse a dangerous and mythical landscape in search of the Dark Lord Darvezian, the stereotypical fantasy villain spreading his darkness throughout the country. I was blown away by the world-building, characters, and the clever use of wit. This is a novel where the author clearly had fun writing and it shows throughout the dialogue and the atypical conclusion to the epic quest. Highly recommend picking this one up.  

October is the Coldest Month is a damn good book perfectly suited for fans of rural noir, and draws comparison with Daniel Woodrell. The 16yr old protagonist, Vega is a character you can't help but want more of. She's street smart, complex and has all the hallmarks of a countryside femme fatale. Shout out to Scribe for sending a copy my way.

Other books I rated 5 stars in no particular order include:

The Lone Child by Anna George - general fiction

A Girl Called Honey by Donald Westlake and Lawrence Block - pulp/erotica

Purgatory by Ken Bruen - the 10th book in the Jack Taylor series 

The Woman by Jack Ketchum (reread) - horror, set in the same world as Off Season

Review: THE DEVIL'S BUSINESS by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

Publisher Image
Length 136 pages
Format trade
Published 2012
Series Fatale (6-10)
My Copy I bought it

My Review
The second volume in the Fatale epic creates and concludes another chapter in the mysterious life of Josephine circa 1979. The eternal beauty who mystifies men with a mere look entraps a young and struggling actor into her gory world almost by accident; Miles fleeing from a gruesome cult killing murder scene with Suzy, a convert of the cult, stumbles upon Josephine’s secluded mansion as he searches for safety. There Josephine takes Miles and Suzy in, providing solace from the cult and any dangerous pursuers. 

The Devil’s Business can be confusing at times but reads better in a single sitting; it also requires the reader having some familiarity with the preceding volume Death Chases Me to understand the interludes, prologue and epilogue which span across two different periods; the 1950’s and present day.

The book doesn’t resolve the initial story arc introduced in Death Chases Me, rather it builds upon the lore of the cult and deepens the questions surrounding Josephine and her link to the violent Hollywood underground. Unlike Death Chases Me, The Devil’s Business does have a full story in it as mentioned above with new character Miles and his unfortunate involvement with the cult. 

The art is great and the chemistry between Phillips and Brubaker is evident throughout. Fatale is a series that hooks you in and will have you coming back for more. 

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Pick Up A Pulp [21]: A GIRL CALLED HONEY by Lawrence Block & Donald Westlake

Originally published in 1960 as an erotic novel under the authors respective pulp pseudonyms of the time (Sheldon Lord and Alan Marshall), A Girl Called Honey would be tame by today's more openly lurid standards (and I say that in a nice way).

The focus of the book is Honour Mercy Bane, daughter of churchgoing, god-fearing people who gets sent packing after being caught out for one too many indiscretions with the opposite sex - far from wanton, Honour's only black-mark in the eyes of her parents is having sex out of wedlock, immediately she's branded a whore and left to find her way in the world. 

She winds up in a small town, and ultimately gets a job in a cafe which happens to be a front for a brothel; her parents termed her a whole therefore she acts on it and earns a profitable living for while on her back. Before long she meets a young man named Joseph, AWOL from the Air Force who appeals to her nature, soon enough they're living together, he in the apartment all day in fear of being caught, her at the cafe earning a paycheck. The couple decide to relocate to New York after Joesph's paranoia has him believing the net in closing in on him. That's where things get interesting. 

In New York, Honour (going by the name Honey to Johns and acquaintances in the profession) sets to turning tricks on the streets before being snapped up by a high class call girl syndicate. It's here she meets James Crawford, a lawyer and family man who falls head over heals for her. There's a problem, Honey is in love with Joseph and James is used to getting what he wants - naturally things take a murderous turn and Honey/Honour's life is turned inside out. 

A Girl Called Honey is a surprisingly good read that stacks up well against some of today's pulp/noir novels. Sure there's not a lot of depth to these characters but they are well written and fit their environment perfectly. I loved how dark the story turned and will definitely be picking up Sin Hellcat, the next book by these two great writers.

My rating: 5/5, pick up this pulp. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Review: SEE WHAT I HAVE DONE by Sarah Schmidt

Publisher Hachette
Length 328 pages
Format paperback
Published 2017
Series standalone
My Copy I bought it

My Review
See What I Have Done is the fictitious retelling of the Borden murders in 1892 in which Lizzie Borden was accused of having murdered her father and step mother in their home. 

The book focuses on the murders themselves, though the culprit is never clearly identified as the murders remain unsolved to this day, the daughters in Lizzie (who was a home when the murders took place) and Emma (who was staying with a friend at the time) and housekeeper Bridget. John, Lizzie and Emma's uncle also gets page time having arrived at house the day prior the heinous event. The book is told from the points of view of these key characters as well as another, Benjamin, a streetwise thug hired by John to take care of Andrew and Abby (the murdered father and step mother) by giving them a scare for their inappropriate treatment of the daughters. Whether or not this meant committing the act of murder is alluded to though not explicit.

One thing that stands out is the atmosphere of the house where the murders took place. Author Sarah Schmidt does a great job at transforming the humble home into a stuffy fortress full of vile smells and intimidating characters. 

Reader be warned, there are some stomach churning passages involving mutton broth, vomit and the decapitation of pigeons spattered throughout the book (though not necessarily linked to one another thankfully) which certainly add to the feel of the book. 

I liked See What I Have Done but wasn't blown away by it. Of all the characters I thought Benjamin was the most interesting - his backstory was well written and he added another layer of mystery to the murders. 

My rating: 3/5 stars, there's reread value in this one.   

Reviews from the web

I enjoy reading other peoples reviews on books I'm thinking of buying/borrowing/accepting for review to gain another's perspective. Here's some new-ish reviews of recent published books from around the web that are on my radar.

The Late Show by Michael Connelly, reviewed on Crime Watch - this new crime series by the author of the Harry Bosch series looks great. 

After Life by Marcus Sakey, reviewed on The Real Book Spy - it's been a while since I read a book by Marcus Sakey but this surreal thriller has me interested. 

Killing is My Business by Adam Christopher, reviewed on Criminal Element - currently reading this one, shout out to Tor Books for the review copy. 

Darktown by Thomas Mullen, reviews on Goodreads - originally published in 2016 with a new paperback edition published Feb 2017, this new series set in the 1940's looks like a winner.