Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Review: MISDIRECTION by Austin Williams

Misdirection (The Rusty Diamond, #1)From the back of the book:
After years of chasing fame and hedonistic excess in the bright lights of Las Vegas, Rusty "The Raven" Diamond has returned home to Ocean City to piece his life back together. When he finds himself an innocent suspect in his landlord's brutal murder, Rusty abandons all hope of maintaining a tranquil existence. Acting on impulse, he digs into the investigation just enough to anger both the police and a local drug cartel.

As the unsolved case grows more complex, claiming new victims and inciting widespread panic, Rusty feels galvanized by the adrenaline he's been missing for too long. But his newfound excitement threatens to become an addiction, leading him headfirst into an underworld he's been desperately trying to escape.

 
My review:
MISDIRECTION is the first book in the Rusty Diamond Trilogy and quickly establishes the unique protagonist as a budding gumshoe to be reckoned with. While not a licenced PI in any traditional sense, Rusty's methods of deduction and colourful tools of the trade make for one interesting ride on the wings of 'The Raven' as he seeks vengeance for the horrific murder of his elderly landlord.

I love books that set the tone early in the piece and MISDIRECTION does just that. Opening with a violently confronting scene; the whodunit aspect aligned with the protagonist's motive for justice thrusts the reader into the sequestered criminal underworld of Ocean City.

I was hooked from the opening line:

"The bloodstain was shaped like Florida."

Right off the bat, the reader knows they're in for noir-ish tale with all the blood red trappings.

Rusty is such an interesting character, complimented by a supporting cast that I hope gets more of a look-in in the next book (Biddison - local cop, Carmen - grad student in inorganic chemistry etc.) that the plot almost paled compared to the character. Not a criticism by any means as the book's pacing and plot threads converged at logical intervals with realistic and entertaining outcomes.
 

Despite being the first book in a planned trilogy, author Austin Williams does a great job at writing a self contained story that allows for easy expansion on the continuity of Rusty Diamond's ad-hoc profession; masquerading as a crime solving vigilante.

I'm very much looking forward to seeing where Williams takes 'The Raven' next.

Monday, July 28, 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:

Misdirection (The Rusty Diamond, #1) MISDIRECTION by Austin Williams (copy provided by the author)
 
A street magician needs more than sleight-of-hand to survive getting embroiled in a murder case in this blistering novel of suspense, perfect for fans of Harlan Coben and George Pelecanos.

After years of chasing fame and hedonistic excess in the bright lights of Las Vegas, Rusty “The Raven” Diamond has returned home to Ocean City to piece his life back together. When he finds himself an innocent suspect in his landlord’s brutal murder, Rusty abandons all hope of maintaining a tranquil existence. Acting on impulse, he digs into the investigation just enough to anger both the police and a local drug cartel.

As the unsolved case grows more complex, claiming new victims and inciting widespread panic, Rusty feels galvanized by the adrenaline he’s been missing for too long. But his newfound excitement threatens to become an addiction, leading him headfirst into an underworld he’s been desperately trying to escape.


Nobody's Angel (Hard Case Crime, #65)NOBODY'S ANGEL by Jack Clark (This is one of my favourite Hardcase Crime books. I first read it in 2010 and the timing is right for a reread)
TWO KILLERS STALK THE STREETS OF CHICAGO – CAN ONE TAXI DRIVER CORNER THEM BOTH?

Eddie Miles is one of a dying breed: a Windy City hack who knows every street and back alley of his beloved city and takes its recent descent into violence personally. But what can one driver do about a killer targeting streetwalkers or another terrorizing cabbies? Precious little – until the night he witnesses one of them in action… 

A Firing Offense
A FIRING OFFENSE by George Pelecanos (The first book in the Nick Stefanos trilogy – been sitting in my tbr for far too long)

As the advertising director of Nutty Nathan's, Nick Stefanos knows all the tricks of the electronics business. Blow-out sales and shady deals were his life. When one of the stockboys disappears, it's not news: just another metalhead who went off chasing some dream of big money and easy living. But the kid reminded Nick of himself twelve years ago: an angry punk hooked on speed metal and the fast life. So when the boy's grandfather begs Nick to find the kid, Nick says he'll try.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Review: ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF VICISSITUDE by Andrez Bergen

One Hundred Years of VicissitudeOur chief protagonist Wolram E Deaps, first seen in the scifi noir TOBACCO STAINED MOUNTAIN GOAT, has passed away and now resides in the hereafter; a strange halfway home between life and death - a place where memories are relived in all their gore and glory.
 
Accompanying him is a geisha, Kohana, having also past away following an innings of 100 (or there abouts). Despite the triple figure, Kohana resembles a teenager - one of many mysteries that enthralls Deaps. Initially there seems to be little to link these two vastly different characters,  however as the story unfolds their lives become intertwined in more ways than one.
 
I've not read a book like ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF VICISSITUDE before. It has no distinct genre, rather borrowing elements from many to form a literary tale that transports the reader through a sticky strange web of nostalgia ingrained in the lives and deaths of Deaps and Kohana.
 
Rich with fact and equally engaging fiction, ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF VICISSITUDE is an imaginative beast that is nothing short of all consuming.
 
Author Andrez Bergen has got to be one of the most diverse authors I've read, each of his novels is unique and top shelf and ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF VICISSITUDE is no different.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

This Years Best Crime Fiction - So Far

2014 has seen some great crime fiction releases, below are the best and bloodiest of what I've read from the newly or soon to be published books in the genre. In no particular order:

Origin (Wolf Creek, #1)Cold in July   Salaryman Unbound

ORIGIN (Wolf Creek) by Greg McLean - the ultimate outback noir. This is the kind of book I've been wanting to read for as long as I can remember. More crime than horror, the first of the Wolf Creek prequels is a must for readers of dark and bloody crime fiction. 

- Review: ORIGIN by Greg McLean

COLD IN JULY by Joe R Lansdale - not really a new release, however the latest edition coincides with the new feature film. Hands down the best crime novel I've read by Lansdale.

- Review: COLD IN JULY by Joe R Lansdale

SALARYMAN UNBOUND by Erza Kyrill Erker - my 'dark horse' for the end of year 'best of' lists. White collar noir that channels Jason Starr and Ryu Murakami. One of the absolute best independent crime releases I've read.

- Review: SALARYMAN UNBOUND by Erza Kyrill Erker

A Swollen Red Sun   Stalk Me   The Wrong Quarry (Quarry #11 - Hard Case Crime #114)
 
A SWOLLEN RED SUN by Matthew McBride - raw and unforgiving, Matthew McBride's new book is the pure embodiment of noir versed in a kind of hick/back water literature akin to Daniel Woodrell. Though we're only midway through 2014, it'll be hard to top this book as sitting top of the heap at years end.

- Review: A SWOLLEN RED SUN by Matthew McBride

STALK ME by Richard Parker - I've not read a crime thriller as intense and cleverly complex as this. Muck like last year's SCARE ME, Richard Parker hits this one right out the park.

- Review: STALK ME by Richard Parker

THE WRONG QUARRY by Max Allan Collins - pure popcorn pulp in all its overtly sexual and violent ways.  I don't know how Max Allan Collins continues to keep his perennial hitman fresh in new and engrossing novels but I'm sure glad he does. I haven't have this much fun with a Quarry book since THE LAST QUARRY.

- Review: THE WRONG QUARRY by Max Allan Collins

Cop TownCOP TOWN by Karin Slaughter - this standalone crime novel set in 1970's Atlanta has the makings a being a great new series (while not marketed as such, I hope we see further instalments). Think George Pelecanos.

- Review: COP TOWN by Karen Slaughter

Friday, July 25, 2014

Review: STINKING RICH by Rob Brunet

Stinking RichFrom the back of the book:
Danny Grant figures he's hit the big time when he lands a job growing pot for a backwoods biker gang. The Libidos are picky about their hires and prone to radical pruning when members go rogue. Members like Perko Ratwick, the aspiring Road Captain who stretched club rules to hire young Danny, putting his own patch-never mind his life-on the line if the punk screws up. What could possibly go wrong with a high school dropout left unattended in a barn full of high-grade marijuana? Plenty, it turns out. In a world where indoor plumbing's optional and each local wacko is more twisted than the last, drug money draws reprobates like moths to a lantern. From loveable losers to gnarly thugs and law-and-order wannabes, every last one of them has an angle-their best shot at being stinking rich. But Perko's got warped ideas about right, wrong, and retribution, and the gang's not far behind.
My Review:
I had a lot of fun reading STINKING RICH. Author Rob Brunet’s style can be likened to Carl Hiaasen (author of SKINNY DIP) and Marc Lecard (author VINNIES HEAD) in that STINKING RICH deftly trapeses the genre defying tight rope swaying either side of black humour and serious crime – well, at least in the minds of the biker gangsters.

For lead character Danny Grant, crime paves the way for some easy cash – and as for a murder rap? Well, that was an accident – the baseball bat, the dog, and the deceased, all in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Brunet has a gift to making a mockery of murder while still making the event plausible and within context; the aforementioned baseball bat incident a near perfect example. There’s also a laugh out loud near miss involving throwing knives and a mensroom door – I’ll leave that to the reader to discover.

While this is clearly Danny Grants’ story – a story of dreams, pot, and family amidst dodging bullets and dog bites, I thought it was Buzz and Skeritt, two peripheral characters that anchored the plot to the point of almost demanding further exploration. It’s always a good sign when an author is able to craft multi-dimensional characters that leap off the page and STINKING RICH is full of them.

STINKING RICH is due out in September from Down & Out Books – read more on the Rob Brunet’s website: http://www.robbrunet.com/

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Review: MOTHERS WHO MURDER by Dr Xanthe Mallett

Mothers Who MurderFrom the back of the book:
All of these women are notorious, but are all of them deadly? Child murder: A social taboo and one of the most abhorrent acts most of us can imagine. Meet the women found guilty of murdering their own children. They represent some of the most hated women in Australia. The infamous list includes psychologically damaged, sometimes deranged, women on the edge. But, as we will see, accused doesn't always mean guilty. Among the cases covered is that of Kathleen Folbigg, accused and found guilty of killing four of her children, even with a lack of any forensic evidence proving her guilt; Rachel Pfitzner, who strangled her 2-year-old son and dumped his body in a duck pond; as well as Keli Lane, found guilty of child murder though no body has ever been found.Dr Mallett goes back to the beginning of each case; death's ground zero. That might be the accused's childhood, were they abused? Or was their motivation greed, or fear of losing a partner? Were they just simply evil? Or did the media paint them as such, against the evidence and leading to a travesty of justice.Each case will be re-opened, the alternative suspects assessed, the possible motives reviewed. Informed by her background as a forensic scientist, Xanthe offers insight into aspects of the cases that may not have been explored previously. Taking you on her journey through the facts, and reaching her own conclusion as to whether she believe the evidence points to the women's guilt. Hear their stories.
 
My Review:
Many readers would hold a macabre curiosity attached to the topical nature of this book if not a passing interest by virtue of the unspeakable act implicit in the title. The very thought of a maternal parent undertaking such a heinous crime in murdering their child is incomprehensible to many (myself included) yet, there are a sinister few who have done this. Dr Xanthe Mallett looks at a number of infamous cases and provides an objective interpretation and overview of the particulars that led to the unfortunate course of events while also examining the core police investigation, witness accounts, forensic evidence, and passing her theory on the presumption of innocence or justifiable conviction. 
MOTHERS WHO MURDER is a hard book to put down; the writing style and chapter layout make it instantly readable and easily consumable in a few sittings. Dr Mallett’s use of layman’s terms integrated within the narrative make this more of a read for casual true crime enthusiasts as opposed to a text book laden with jargon - instantly appealing to a broader audience of reader.
Familiarity with the cases isn’t a prerequisite to comprehend what Dr Mallett is further elaborating on as each chapter detailing a case provides sufficient background and extensive reference points for further reading.
Do I feel any different about some of the cases depicted in MOTHERS WHO MURDER in comparison to what I knew of these crimes prior to reading? Yes. It’s an answer that shocks me but one that I imagine, Dr Mallett had intended throughout the course of writing the book. Presenting detailed factual evidence forensically examined and subsequently explained in layman’s terms allows the reader to make their own judgement without prejudice.  
Dr Mallett at the end of the book favourably leans towards writing more – given how MOTHERS WHO MURDER turned out; I hope this eventuates in more true crime books in the future.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Returning to the scene of the crime: POWER OF THE DOG by Don Winslow

The Power of the DogFrom the back of the book
Drug lord Miguel Angel Barrera is head of the Mexican drug cartel, responsible for millions of dollars worth of cocaine traffic into the US and the torture of those who stand in its way. His nephew, Adan Barrera, is his worthy successor.

Art Keller is a US government operative, so determined to obtain revenge for a murdered colleague that his pursuit of the cartel veers dangerously towards an obsession outside the law. This is a world characterised by its brutality, yet all Winslow's incredibly varied cast - including a high class prostitute, an Irish hitman and a charismatic Catholic priest - are all in their own ways searching for salvation. 
 
My Review
Epic in story and substance, THE POWER OF THE DOG is the crime equivalent of a broad spanning fantasy novel. Told over a thirty year time frame, Winslow's masterful tale of cross border drug running, corrupt cops, and gangsters is much more than a bloody swipe at alphabet agency politicking, with themes comprising vengeance, betrayal, misguided justice, and the illusion of redemption rife.

Through Art Keller, Winslow delivers a rich and deeply satisfying plot driven by a tainted protagonist whose moral compass is as skewed as the fractured blue line that policies the borderline war on drugs.

One of the strengths of THE POWER OF THE DOG is the mutli faceted characters. The reader gets to see them grow with each predicament they face. Be it Nora or Callan, who they start out as is vastly different from the person they grow to be. As a reader it's nice to go on a journey with the characters irrespective of the setting.

From the bowels of the Mexican drug cartel to the sunny blood encrusted sand on US soil, Art wheels and deals in the lives of innocents and gangsters alike in his quest for vengeance. It's a violent ploy that is the catalyst for many plot threads, all culminating in an entertaining and wholly addictive read that truly is unputdownable.