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.

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:
 
Mothers Who MurderMOTHERS WHO MURDER by Dr Xanthe Mallett (featured in last weeks post, however I didn't get a chance to read it as I was rearranging my personal library)

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.
 
Stinking RichSTINKING RICH by Rob Brunet (review copy provided by the author)

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.
 
 
One Hundred Years of VicissitudeOne Hundred Years of Vicissitude by Andrez Bergen (review copy provided by the author)
 
"First up, a disclaimer. I suspect I am a dead man. I have meagre proof, no framed‐ up certification, nothing to toss in a court of law as evidence of a rapid departure from the mortal coil. I recall a gun was involved, pressed up against my skull, and a loud explosion followed."

Thus begins our narrator in a purgatorial tour through twentieth-century Japanese history, with a ghostly geisha who has seen it all as a guide and a corrupt millionaire as her reluctant companion.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Review: COP TOWN by Karin Slaughter

Cop TownThere is an air of George Pelecanos to Karin Slaughter’s standalone (though I suspect it’ll result in further instalments) crime novel set in 1970’s Atlanta. The mood, setting, and topic all lean towards the darker side of crime fiction of which Pelecanos is renowned. What Karin Slaughter does with this story is make it mainstream and easily accessible to police procedural junkies who may not have a penchant for such themes in crime fiction – which I think is a good thing.

Exploring the seedy, racist, sexist and coiled spring tension filled atmosphere of a white male dominated police department, Karin Slaughter weaves a tale that gives testament to the hard knock life and then some.

The two female leads are flawed yet endearing, each with their own idiosyncrasies and distinct path of self discovery – paths where the cobble stones are bloodied, cracked and uneven – noir-ish without passing that irredeemable point of no return.

The thing that really kept the pages of COP TOWN turning for me was the multifaceted storytelling and plot threads culminating in a broader story of a serial cop killer. The depiction of such a harsh quality of life for women of that time wanting to succeed in a male dominated environment was irresistible and addictive if only for the way they were to overcome the mountainous odds against them.  

While it was refreshing to read a standalone novel, I do hope some of these characters reprise their roles at some stage. I think Karin Slaughter is on to a winner with this 1970’s Atlanta cop story.

Monday, July 14, 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:

Cop TownCOP TOWN by Karin Slaughter (review copy provided by Random House)
Atlanta, 1974: As a brutal murder and a furious manhunt rock the city’s police department, Kate Murphy wonders if her first day on the job will also be her last. She’s determined to defy her privileged background by making her own way—wearing a badge and carrying a gun. But for a beautiful young woman, life will be anything but easy in the macho world of the Atlanta PD, where even the female cops have little mercy for rookies. It’s also the worst day possible to start given that a beloved cop has been gunned down, his brothers in blue are out for blood, and the city is on the edge of war.

Kate isn’t the only woman on the force who’s feeling the heat. Maggie Lawson followed her uncle and brother into the ranks to prove her worth in their cynical eyes. When she and Kate, her new partner, are pushed out of the citywide search for a cop killer, their fury, pain, and pride finally reach the boiling point. With a killer poised to strike again, they will pursue their own line of investigation, risking everything as they venture into the city’s darkest heart.


The Power of the DogPOWER OF THE DOG by Don Winslow (a few people I follow on twitter have recently re-read this, I loved it a few years ago and feel the timing is right for a second go-round).
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.
Mothers Who MurderMOTHERS WHO MURDER by Dr. Xanthe Mallett (review copy provided by Random House)
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.

Review: MULTIVERSUM by Leonardo Patrignani

Multiversum (Multiversum, #1)From the back of the book: 
Alex and Jenny are sixteen. He lives in Milan; she, in Melbourne. For the past four years, they have glimpsed each other at random moments, while they are both unconscious — a telepathic communication that occurs without warning.

During one of these episodes, they manage to arrange a meeting. But on the day, though they are standing in the same place at the same time, each of them cannot see the other. This leads them to a startling discovery: they live in different dimensions. In Jenny’s world, Alex is someone else. And in Alex’s world, Jenny died at the age of six.

As they try to find each other, the Multiverse threatens to implode and disappear, but Jenny and Alex must meet — the future of the Earth depends on it.

My Review:
MULTIVERSUM is an entertaining and thought provoking novel that transports the reader through a limitless stream of possibility and uncertainty, invoking a kind of paralysis of reality by which time and place are defined by no traditional boundary or scale.

With pre and post-apocalyptic elements embodying the plot, the omnipresent sense of doom is ever looming over the heads of the young characters at the forefront of MULTIVERSUM. The dynamic is such that each interaction between Alex and Jenny is heightened to a point that the star crossed lovers undergo an almost painful yearning for one another as they battle not only their sanity but humanity as a whole.

Conceptually, MULTIVERSUM is brilliant, borrowing a little from the Butterfly Effect and taking it to the extreme by virtue of alternate dimensions and a delicately poised interwoven cataclysmic event.

The conclusion is awe inspiriting and a fitting end to the story as a whole while clearly paving the way for the next instalment. It takes a smart writer to pull off a satisfying ending while also plotting the beginnings of future stories, here, author Leonardo Patrignani ever so deftly delivers.

This edition from Scribe was translated by Antony Shugaar. No word yet if MEMORIA, the next instalment in the MULTIVERSUM saga will appear in English.

View more on the publishers website: http://scribepublications.com.au/books-authors/title/multiversum/

Other posts you may like:

- Review: THE ALMOST GIRL by Amalie Howard

- Books 2014: Surreal Picks & What To Look Forward To

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Review: SABRIEL by Garth Nix

Sabriel (The Old Kingdom Trilogy, #1)With the fourth full length novel, CLARIEL, due to be published later this year, I thought I'd get reacquainted with the Old Kingdom trilogy beginning with SABRIEL. The first book in this unique and spellbinding series follows Sabriel, a teenager who learns of her fathers impending doom from across the wall in the Old Kingdom; a place rife with magic and dead things. As she travels this dangerous landscape the quest conforms to the formulaic trappings of adventure fantasy; accumulating loyal followers and battling well defined antagonists along the way to locate her father and save the world from a dark danger.
 
SABRIEL isn't high fantasy. It isn't epic fantasy.  What it is, is an entertaining character driven story that borrows from all the core elements of the genre and infuses it with a touch of horror and a dash of the supernatural.
 
While not explicitly defined as YA, SABRIEL could fall within that definition by virtue of the introspective narrative and innocence of the protagonist coupled with the easy romanticism that seeps into the story.
 
The Old Kingdom books are a great form of escapism, and having re-read SABRIEL, I'm now even more excited for the new book.
 
Related Posts:
 
 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Comic Review: ROBOCOP #1

"Dead or alive, you're coming with me."
 
"I'd buy that for a dollar!"
 
Two nostalgic lines that take the reader back to Old Detroit and the human cyborg cop that is Alex Murphy, aka Robocop. Boom Studios and the creative team of writer Joshua Williamson and artist Carlos Magno transport the reader straight back to the 1987 feature film picking up the comic right where the iconic film left off.
 
Writer Joshua Williamson takes an interesting approach in his rendition of Murphy and one that I feel really works for the book. Robocop is just that, a robotic police officer driven by the pure pursuit of justice irrespective of personal harm and human emotion. Luckily, Murphy's original partner Lewis is there to provide the human element to this brand of law enforcement; though how long she's teamed with Murphy remains to be seen.
 
What I really like about Robocop #1 is how true to the source material it is. That essence of the 80's splatter gore crime flick is captured to perfection via some dark and moody artwork from Carlos Magno. Not only is the central character/element well articulated in each panel/splash page, the background inks are realistic and give context to the world and place setting of Old Detroit; derelict, dangerous, and down trodden. The second page spread is worth the price of purchase alone.
 
Robocop #1 is a quick read even by comic standards due to the emphasis on art to drive a number of panels over dialog, yet that doesn't damper the story in any way. As a first issue, the creative team have done everything possible to get this new series off to a great start. I'm interested to see where a couple of these plot threads end up; notably the ones involving Killian and Lewis' aspiration for career advancement.
 
Related Posts:
 
- Weekly Pull List Feature [4]

- Pull List Preview: Forthcoming Comics