Thursday, January 31, 2013

Review: QUARRY'S LIST (Quarry #2) by Max Allan Collins

Quarry's ListQUARRY’S LIST opens with the swift and ice cold professional killing of an intruder inside Quarry’s home. The midnight attack, the result of a former associate in the murder of hire business looking to take out any competition that may stem the takeover of the Brokers former empire. Not wasting time, Quarry grills the back-up man from the attempted hit for information which leads him to a confrontation and subsequent sit down with the Brokers lawyer, Curtis Brooks, and Ash, a former partner of Quarry’s.

Originally titled THE BROKERS WIFE, QUARRY’S LIST is aptly titled twice over with both capturing the theme of the second instalment in the hitman series. The Brokers wife, Carrie plays a huge role as she is thrust into the violent world her now deceased husband so flourished by virtue of some over zealous and ambitious business associates. While a list supposedly in Quarry’s possession detailing the Brokers hired guns contact information is coveted by the same associates hoping for a one-two punch in taking over the business while also scoring a monetary windfall by eradicating Carrie in order to obtain her inheritance.

It’s in QUARRY’S LIST that Quarry takes a turn of direction, using his former associates as form of revenue:

“…there were other Brokers. Most of the hit men (and women) named here would be working again, soon, if not already, for new Brokers. If I picked a name from the list, followed whoever it was to a job, found out who the potential victim was, I could go to that potential victim and offer my services. If my offer was rejected, no skin off my ass; let the asshole die, it’s up to him.”

The Chicago syndicate angle, alluded to in QUARRY yet unsustained by the Broker is addressed here, in large part by Curtis Brooks who shines a light on the dark dealings of the mob. It provides a deeper understanding of the Brokers former business and how the clientele are sourced.

One of the highlights of QUARRY’S LIST is the mouth watering revelation at the end surrounding Carrie’s farther and relationship with her former husband. I added a little something extra to the murderous plot and provided for a great slice of entertainment. This book really sets the tone for the further instalments.
  
My review of QUARRY (Quarry #1) can be found here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/236429908

Monday, January 28, 2013

Review: LOSS (Gus Dury #3) by Tony Black


Loss (Gus Dury, #3)There is a hopeless quality to LOSS, one that breads and multiplies through Gus Dury’s quest for vengeance over his brother’s untimely death. Author Tony Black has delivered one of the most emotional evocative noirs I’ve had the pleasure of reading – it’s tense, brutal, unforgiving, and entirely depressing. If a book could be described as a colour, LOSS would be grey. Every pages oozes noir, each chapter a nail in the coffin for hopes of a happy ending. Quality and completely endearing storytelling.

Gus, for his part, continues to grow as a strong minded character trying to make the best from a situation where the cards are constantly staked against him. He’s managed to dodge the drink, is back with his missus (at least temporarily), and has given up the PI gig. A visit to the local station at the request of Fitz soon turns all of that around and before long Gus is knee deep in the caper, indulging in illicit drugs and seeking a shrink to save his relationship with Debs.

The twists and hidden agendas provide the smoke and mirrors to keep you guessing while Gus and his accomplices trudge through the past in order to solve the present day mystery. More heart than previous instalments and more personal than other semi-PI related novels I’ve read, LOSS comes across as both a great piece of fiction, and an all too easy slice of reality. One could easily see how the actions of Gus could transpire into a real world situation. This isn’t all about guns, glory and babes. It’s guts, determination and loss.

As common as it is to say, LOSS is a real page turner. It’s like that car crash you cant look away from. No hope lies herein – pain is commonplace and Gus is just about ready to jump back on the Jack Taylor-like wagon to self made oblivion. Safe to say, LONG TIME DEAD has jumped a few places in my TBR. I can’t wait to read more of Gus Dury.

In a word – exceptional.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Review: RILKE ON BLACK by Ken Bruen

Rilke On BlackRILKE ON BLACK is one of Ken Bruen's earlier noirs and it's easy to see where the foundations for Jack Taylor were laid. Bruen's depiction of noir in a modern setting is unsettling and essential to the downtrodden and depraved mindset of his characters who inhabit this grey clad world he so effortlessly thrusts them in. In RILKE ON BLACK, the influence of vice is paramount to the plot. Alcoholisms and a slightly lighter form of prostitution (or overt promiscuous) to meet an end drive the character traits as the underworld cracks the surface towards urban crime.

A trio of misfits hatch a plot to kidnap a prominent club owner in order to buy a one way ticket from everyday living. An opportunity born through a devious kind of trust ensures that this plan is far from bullet proof. Bruen does a good job at maintaining the suspense and keeping the knife at bay, ready to strike in ones back at the slightest provocation. A quality few could master.

The crime itself plays out in relative prediction. Its the ensuing money drop and subsequent actions of the kidnappers that hold the readers attention. Nick (the bouncer), Dex (the requisite drifter type), and Lisa (the brains of the operation and shady character) play off each other constantly with violence simmering and mistrust as common as a breath of sordid polluted air.

There was a lot to like about RILKE ON A BIKE, yet the simplicity will either marvel or leave wanting. Its very much 'take-it-or-leave-it'. My initial reaction is that RILKE ON A BIKE is enjoyable without bringing the same level of satisfaction I've come to expect by Ken Bruen. This one definitely requires a re-read in order to fully appreciate Bruen's early development of the craft.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Book Review: LIQUID FEAR by Scott Nicholson

Liquid FearLIQUID FEAR has one of the best opening lines I’ve read:

“The rain fell like dead bullets.”

It evokes a vivid imagery typical of the noir genre and subsequently follows up with similar styling’s as we’re introduced to Roland, a somewhat confused and battered man wallowing in pain and overcome by the unpredictable situation he so finds himself. From that point forward, author Scott Nicholson switches gears towards medico-thriller with all the trappings. A drug which induces memory loss, another that acts as conduit for rage and the human guinea pigs that unknowingly partake in a 10 year experiment that turns full circle exposing dark revelations and systematic evil delivered through the mind of a genius provides a mere glimpse at an all too viable tale.

Nicholson does a great job at capturing his characters confusion; be it identity or situational and subsequently pushing that onto the reader. Roland’s forgetfulness initially is disorientating, portrayed through a haze of mystery and almost drunkenness liquidity. With this theme following the course of the novel as additional characters fall in line with the effects of the treatment. Adding to that the rage inducing chemical which can only be harnessed by absorbing physical trauma, the interesting and unpredictable cast and course of action maintains a fresh perspective and continuous enjoyment.

There is a lot to like about LIQUID FEAR. It’s fiction bordering on a harsh and all too realistic reality. The villain, a brilliant and twisted scientist who dabbles in grey matter, using the minds of his guinea pigs as a sandbox is truly terrifying, not by virtue of his façade or persona, more due to the reality of a person such as this existing in real-life – its certainly not outside the realms of possibility. I also liked the way Nicholson played the characters against each other. There are many confrontations you never know how they’ll turn out. Throw in a little dirty politicking, big business drug companies, and sexual depravity and LIQUID FEAR becomes one hell of a read.

Given how this ended, I’m interested to see where Nicholson heads in the sequel CHRONIC FEAR.

I highly recommend LIQUID FEAR for readers seeking that little extra thrill to their fiction.

Review: DARK PROPHECY by Anthony E. Zuiker & Duane Swierczynski

*This review is for the book only. Unlike DARK ORIGINS, I choose not to watch the cyber bridges of DARK PROPHECY in order to streamline the text.

Dark Prophecy (Level 26, #2)DARK PROPHECY is James Patterson like, almost two-dimensional cardboard characters slightly balanced by high octane thrills and hard hitting action sequences. This book felt very much like a TV episode (perhaps due to Zuiker’s CSI?) with condensed characterisation and an emphasis on the quick thrill. In DARK ORIGINS, the authors (Zuiker and Swierczynski) created a truly horrifying and menacing villain in Sqweegel, a contortionist with a penchant for violence and unsettling habit of covert break and entry who really gripped the reader. In DARK PROPHECY, the villain(s) are run of the mill – a Tarot Card Killer whose murder spree spans the US in some elaborate plot to justify revenge for an unfortunate event – it’s a twisted premise common in serial killer fiction where the rationale thinker is put aside in order to follow the actions of the bad guys.

Steve Dark is the primary focus of the second instalment of the Level 26 trilogy – he’s washed up, self obsessed and struggling to come to grips with being a father to a motherless daughter. No longer working for the agency responsible for tracking and stopping the Level 26 killers, he’s a pale comparison of his former self. Choosing to hide deep within while maintaining the façade of a college professor, Dark’s obsessive compulsive behaviour sees him canvas old texts on serial killers analysing from the confines of his own home rather than the field which made his name. His white collar job provides just enough outside stimulation as to stop him from reverting to a full blown hermit. Make no mistake, Dark is a far cry from the character last seen in DARK ORIGINS. Despite a wealth of material to draw upon for Steve Dark, he still felt a little cardboard cut-out like for me.    

I had high expectations for DARK PROPHECY with the ending to DARK ORIGINS setting the tone for what should’ve been a more elaborate look at the level 26 killers and the means the secret agencies will go to in order to eradicate or harness their mayhem. Despite some obvious shortcomings, DARK PROPHECY is still an entertaining white knuckle thriller that manages to maintain a degree of mystery on both sides of the law; the identity of TCK and the secret agency responsible for luring Dark back into the field. The chapter are very quick and flow well with one another (akin to James Patterson). I didn’t have to overly think anything which serves well for those wanting something quick and easy to fulfil their crime fix. As with the ending of DARK ORIGINS, DARK PROPHECY has once again hooked me in to wanting to continue reading the series.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Review: MOCKINGBIRD by Chuck Wendig


“I don’t know how you’re going to turn out. I don’t think well. I think you’re a bad girl destined for bad things.”

Mockingbird (Miriam Black, #2)Miriam Black is cursed with the ability to see death. The merest touch of skin allows her to see anyone’s end regardless of when the reapers due to collect – it could be years, months, or minutes, as is the case with the opening scene of MOCKINGBIRD, the second book to feature Miriam Black by author Chuck Wendig.

Miriam is just as potty mouthed and headstrong as ever in MOCKINBIRD as she puts her curse to good use. The premonitions involving a string of gruesome ritual killings at a secluded all girls’ school unearth a serial killer like no other. Uncovering the truth behind the killings could result in much more than what Miriam had bargained for. All of a sudden, saving the lives of seemingly innocent young women/girls could very well result in her losing her own. The hint of a butterfly effect, a tantalising proposition, as Miriam for the first time is confronted with the future as a result of her actions.  

Wendig explores Miriam’s unique ability further in MOCKINGBIRD adding an element of ‘other’ to the mix resulting in Miriam’s lone wolf persona faulting slightly with the promise of a larger pack. The supernatural really gets kicked up a notch here, mind control, future forecasting, ghosts and all manner of evils that bump in the night add a little something to Miriam’s latest outing.

Much like BLACKBIRDS, MOCKINGBIRD is very easy to read with Wendig blending the sequences effortlessly. Short, quick fire chapters keep the novel moving along while the limited cast allows for greater character depth and meaningful story. Wendig is on to a real winner with Miriam Black.  

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Review: DEVILS OVEN by Laura Benedict


“The darkness – it’s all around you,” she said. “You’re going to let it in.”

Devil's OvenDEVILS OVEN is kind of a modern day take on Frankenstein with a delicate twist of innocence and ignorance. The monsters of Benedict’s third novel don’t conform to the stereotype, more often than not masquerading as normal people with their motives a true reflection of the evil that lurks within.

Ivy is a lonesome and hopelessly lovable character who stumbles upon the hacked pieces of a man in a nearby haunted woodland. A seamstress by trade, Ivy uses her skill to sow the man together – irrationally thinking it’ll result in her ‘knight in shining armour’ – a man she can call her own. By some supernatural power, the man rises from the dead and the beginnings of a horror story is borne.

There’s a lot to like about DEVILS OVEN. While horror, it’s the more human elements that reflect the lengths some will go to in order to relish in their own form of darkness. Adultery, murder, rape – all manner of heinous activity bleeds effortlessly into the horror that is DEVILS OVEN. No one is safe in the community, Benedict makes sure of it.
 
A well plotted, entertaining story where the lines that separate the natural from supernatural are blurred to a degree that makes it difficult to distinguish one from another.

Review: HINDSIGHT by A.A. Bell

Hindsight (Mira Chambers #2)Mira Chambers has the ability to see the past. While more of a curse than a gift, this robs her of seeing the present day, which in part, resulted in her incapacitation at an asylum. Sprouting off the fantastical doesn’t generally warrant a rationale minded person’s sympathy or attention. However, in DIAMOND EYES, a couple of scientists saw potential as did the military and when Mira was analysed further, her worth was realised and life compromised.

HINDSIGHT picks up right where DIAMOND EYES left off, so reading the preceding book is a must to understand what’s going on in HINDSIGHT. It’s a vasty different novel from DIAMOND EYES in that Mira’s confidence is well on the way to being fully fledged (certainty in the later stages of HINDSIGHT) and the military component is paramount to the plot, characterisation of Mira, Ben, Gabby and Lockman (as the main characters), and accounts for the majority of the action. For Mira – being perceived as a military weapon is a change from being perceived as a crazy woman who needs to be constantly medicated.

I enjoyed the pairing of Mira and Lockman – he’s almost and anti-Ben type. Everything that Ben’s not yet all that Mira wants in a way. It’s their continued relationship which adds further drama to scenes where life and death plays are made on behalf of either character.

To define HINDSIGHT into a single genre is a difficult thing. While there are elements of the fantastical, thriller, crime, and romance the story itself doesn’t really conform to a single label. The varying degrees of fiction that comprise this tale ensure it maintains a freshness throughout despite some over-the-top and perhaps unnecessary dialogue from Mira (a minor gripe). I did find that HINDSIGHT took a little while to get moving – after 100 or so pages I was left scratching my head as to where author A.A. Bell was taking Mira and Ben – before long my question was answered and soon enough all core characters experience violence up close and personal.

Mira is a unique character and she continues to grow on me the more I read of her. In DIAMOND EYES we saw her as a hopelessly misunderstood young women begging for someone to believe her. In HINDSIGHT she’s grown in confidence, responsibility and has an inner strength akin to a Marine (a slight exaggeration but one that’s justified imo – read the book you’ll know what I mean). I look forward to reading more of her story in Leopard Dreaming, the next book in the series.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Review: BAR SCARS by Nik Korpon

Bar ScarsNine stories of pure Baltimore noir touching on the dire, dramatic, and dangerous lives of characters all destined to fail while experience a hell of hurt on the way to ruin. Opening with THIS WILL END WELL sets the tone for the collection, there is a hopeless beauty to Korpon’s poetic depiction of noir in this story with the three characters equally untrustworthy, dangerous and seriously good to read.

A SPARROW WITH WHITE SCARS draws the reader to the back alley bar brawls where vicious and violent events are as common as the dumpsters and debris cluttered earth behind the seedy establishments. INTERSECTIONS, one of the best in the collection has a tantalising revelation that left me salivating for more – this isn’t a typical hit and run tale, make no bones about it.

There were a couple stories that didn’t jell for me, THAT PALE LIGHT IN THE WEST, a dialogue driven story that was perhaps a tad short, and GLAS BUBBLE, the last story. That said, the majority of these stories were very good. ALEX AND THE MUSIC BOX was another of my favourites where a jilted ex finds himself witness to the murder of his former girlfriend while SHE SLEEPS BENEATH CLOUDS OF EMBERS was a nice take on the escort angle by which a customer pays for a rather unique service -  masterfully conveyed confusion.

In HAYMAKER corrupt cops put the result of a boxing bout beyond doubt by taking out one of the combatants before a punch is thrown. HIS FOOTSTEPS ARE MADE OF SOOT shows the length some with go to forget when a man tries to rid the memory of his past by enlisting an unethical doctor eradicate the past from his memory – adding diversity to the bar rage fuelled collection.

Overall, BAR SCARS is a solid collection of short stories by one of my favourite authors in Nik Korpon. His Baltimore is dark, moody and evocative, the captured essence of noir.

Review: MIDNIGHT ECHO #8

Midnight Echo #8The blood encrusted pages of Midnight Echo #8 are dripping with the stuff of nightmares and are laced with a chilling realism that is equally as terrifying as the fantastical images the short stories conjure. Comprising a ghoulish smorgasbord of some of today’s best in the business and a plethora of talented up and comers, the fiction is nothing short of top class. Bookend by a couple of zombie tales, the first a post outbreak event where the definition of monsters is clouded by the actions of the living showcases Joe R. Lansdale’s craftsmanship and fine appreciation of the genre by taking it to another level altogether. While PIGROOT FLAT by Jason Fischer flips the script on zombie horror by introducing an all too real horror amidst the dust and desolate Australian outback. I particularly liked the living dead in PIGROOT FLAT as being objectified as mere obstacles while the true horror flourishes behind the face of the living.

“She looked at him, her eyes bruises, her mouth and open wound, and screamed mutely. He didn’t hear her, but saw the bloody trail she left in her wake.” – THE GIRL FROM THE BORDERLANDS

In between the zombie mayhem lays tales of overzealous religious beliefs crossing the line towards the sketchy realm of insanity in BLISSFUL IGNORANCE by Matt Wedge, a distilled look at motherhood where trouble is alluded to through a veil of the surreal in JAR BABY by Michelle Jager, a terrorist interrogation spliced with horror in THEY DONT KNOW THAT WE KNOW WHAT THEY KNOW by Andrew J McKiernan, and a hard knock life look at the underprivileged and unwanted youth in THE BOY WITH THE HOLE IN HIS HEART by Caysey Sloan amongst others.

While all of these stories are decent reads, the best of a good bunch include THE GIRL FROM THE BORDERLANDS by Felicity Dowker which manages to convey the depth and detailed character driven story typically achieved through longer formats. HELLO KITTY by Jason Nahrung is an extremist portrait of the criminally insane where reality crosses the line towards batsh!t crazy. Joanne Anderton’s ALWAYS A PRICE requires a suspension of reality to afford the reader the luxury of getting lost in a world viewed through a veil of blood red horror. Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee’s SQUIRRELY SHIRLEY is more noir than horror yet provides the highlight by means of a former adulterer turned mass murderer in glorious gun toting fashion. TOOTH by Kathryn Hore puts the fear back into the dentist visit by way of a monstrous dark presence showing itself in alien-like fashion – one of the surprise stories of the collection and very enjoyable to read.

Spread throughout Midnight Echo #8 are poems, interviews (Jack Ketchum talks about his most renowned book THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, while Lee Battersby discusses his debut THE CORPSE-RAT KING and provides a glimpse towards his later projects), a comic, and standing features all giving the reader a healthy dose of the darkness. There are also promo slots for new Aussie horror books which have added to my ever growing TBR pile.

Midnight Echo #8 is a solid read from cover to cover. The folks responsible for this mag know their horror and are giving readers what they want. True to the editorial, Midnight Echo delivers hard edged horror across a number of mediums with terrifyingly good results.

“There’s all sorts in the lonely dark...” - TOOTH
 
Links:
 
Midnight Echo website: http://midnightechomagazine.com/
 
 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Review: CALIFORNIA by Ray Banks

CaliforniaDown the winding road on a path to realise a dream forged in prison, Shug uses a clear and positive mentality to turn his life of crime around and start anew. Fresh from a bid in prison, Shug returns to his former girlfriend’s house wanting only to reclaim his stash from the heist that took away 4 or so years of his life with the aim of using it to front his journey to California sun and wine. Sounds nice and rosy, but this is a Ray Banks novella so you know its going to turn poison ivy and rash in jig time – which is exactly what happens.

Ray Banks delivers a delectable noir downsized for a single reading. As always, the characters are the driving force with their escapades delivering much of the story’s enjoyment. I’m yet to walk away from a novel/novella written by Banks unsatisfied and CALIFORNIA is no different.

The sharp dialogue and confronting circumstances combine for a realistic and moody tale which still teeters on the line of dark humour. Amidst a brawl Banks manages to convey a sense of jocularity, be it a throw away comment, humorous thought, or outlandish action resulting in a distributing yet smirk inducing visualisation of events. All good stuff and true to form for a typical Ray Banks outing.

CALIFORNIA, while being a novella under 100pgs it reads much deeper. The reader gets a good impression of Shug and the events that led to his imprisonment, life with his girlfriend before and after his release, and the shoddy accomplices that may have played a hand in him turning his back on the peaceful life. Oh and there’s the added element that he’s badsh!t crazy too.

If you’re familiar with previous novels by this author, then you’ll know what to expect – a damn good slice of entertainment. I highly recommend it.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Review: WITNESS TO DEATH by Dave White

Witness To DeathA pretty solid thriller that manages to contain the international terrorist angle to New Jersey and New York through clever manipulation of the small-ish cast of characters by way of their interlocking relationships. I like my thrillers to be character driven and this is the foundation of WITNESS TO DEATH. Despite an unassuming homeland terror threat by a weapons manufacture and local mob outfit, it’s accidental hero, John Brighton and ex girlfriend Michelle who bathe in the limelight. Alphabet agencies are involved yet a lone ranger of sorts in Peter Callahan, former accused adulterer turned saviour acts in isolation – his relationship with Michelle, a very real part of the terror plot. It’s his plight and the inner demons of John’s past which really glue this solid story.

Undercover agents, domesticated imbalance and hard hitting fight scenes are paramount throughout. Never knowing who to trust and which side of the story to believe keeps this thriller pumping along at breakneck speed.

Author Dave White, well known for his PI writing flips the script with WITNESS TO DEATH. His style is similar to Duane Swierczynski while the thriller aspects match up with the best in the business. The linear plot is balanced by deep characterisation and enough back-story to make each kill, fight, struggle and victory mean something.

Hinting at a capacity for further stories in this setting, WITNESS TO DEATH both concludes this story while leaving a glimmer of hope for further exploration. It’ll be interesting to see where Dave White heads next – PI or thriller? Either way it’ll be well worth the price of admission.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Review: BIG MARIA by Johnny Shaw

Big MariaBIG MARIA is a humorous adventure that bands three unlikely acquaintances together. The novel has some of the funniest and down to earth characters I’ve had the pleasure of reading including, old man Frank saluting death with a middle finger to the sky, Ricky a non conventional beef cake with a heart of gold and muscles of steel, and Harry, the requisite class clown who evolves from a simple minded alcoholic to explorer extraordinaire. Not to mention Franks crazy grandkids and certifiable daughter Mercedes. Throughout the course of the journey the odd bunch develop a real sense of camaraderie and male bonding as flaws hide behind dust, grime and foolish actions.

In this opportunistic treasure-hunt type caper the continued optimism and overall hilarity of the plight to locate long hidden gold within the Chocolate Mountains is refreshing to read – even the violence is laugh out loud funny. Author Johnny Shaw is a master of witty dialogue and punchy punch-lines, I couldn’t contain the odd smirk here and there while reading Harry’s twisted logic or Frank’s grandson’s general marijuana clouded conversation.

Harry, Ricky, and Frank face a myriad of obstacles along their journey with each new encounter further defining the characters themselves as well as providing high entertainment value. BIG MARIA is a book that doesn’t take itself too seriously and that message is well conveyed throughout the course of the novel. The slapstick trio and crazy plot will have the reader in stitches while still managing to portray a more robust and deeper message in the growth of the group and warm heartedness of the unexpected.

I can’t begin to praise the talents of Johnny Shaw enough. Much like DOVE SEASON (though quite a different novel), BIG MARIA will capture your hearts and minds – a must read. 5 stars.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Review: KISS & DIE by Lee Weeks

Kiss & Die (Detective Johnny Mann, #4)The fourth Johnny Mann novel continues to expand on the diverse heinous subject matters of the previous instalments (THE TROPHY TAKE, THE TRAFFICKED, DEATH TRIP). From people trafficking, serial killers who take macabre trophies from their victims, to Triad warfare and illicit snuff films – Lee Weeks maintains a freshness to the Hong Kong police procedural series ensuring each situation Mann faces is unique yet linked by a broader sense of continuity.

Mann is one hell of a character, plot aside; it’s his story that drives the series. Still recovering from his father’s involvement in the Triads as a successful businessman, Mann himself also operated as an undercover operative in the criminal underworld, infiltrating the Triads and living the life – a fact his brothers in arms haven’t forgotten. Not only does Mann have personal connections with the criminal underworld, his fellow police still question his commitment to the right side of the law. Lee Weeks exposes Mann’s history in KISS AND DIE to the point where Mann himself questions his allegiance – in part due to failed ops and the conniving and sassy Victoria, daughter of Triad crime boss CK who uses her womanly arsenal to seduce the seemingly incorruptible cop.

Brimming with violence and exploitation of minority groups living in squalor, KISS AND DIE introduces Mann to a whole new world of pain and suffering. The inhabitants of the notoriously poor and criminally-inflicted community of the Mansions are being overrun by a new kind of fear – youngsters out to impress the Triad bosses. Delusions of grandeur and an overwhelming thirst for blood results in many causalities without cause. It is within this decaying environment, Ruby, a sadistic serial killer like no other flourishes, murdering foreign businessmen in vivid stomach churning detail – perhaps Weeks’ crowing achievement at capturing a killers essence. Mann and his team face adversity at every point of the investigation with only street smarts and persistence knocking down the barriers.

KISS AND DIE is a great read. The plot is straightforward and throws up a twist here and there (with a particularly nasty revelation at the end of the book), the Triads are more than cardboard cut-out criminals but rather three dimensional and pivotal to the ongoing series, while Mann, himself continues to grow with each instalment as a person and as a cop. Lee Weeks once again entertains with yet another solid entry into the Johnny Mann series. Once again, I’m eagerly anticipating reading the next instalment.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Review: EASY INNOCENCE by Libby Fischer-Hellmann

Easy Innocence (Georgia Davis Mysteries)Hazing (a process by which individuals are subject to humiliation as part of an initiation to a group), an affluent teenage prostitution ring where the girls turn tricks for ipods over fixes, a real estate scandal, and adultery comprise this enjoyable and heinous viewpoint of the young and rich or well to-do middle class teenage girls embroiled in a murder investigation.

In Chicago’s North Shore, Georgia Davis is hired to prove the innocence of a mentally handicapped man accused of the brutal murder of 17yro Sara Long. While, a convicted sex offender, the case isn’t as clear cut as the police and prosecution had hoped.

Before long Davis is shot at, taunted, and subjected to horrors within the confines of her own home. Yet her steely determination and cop attitude (having recently been kicked off the force) keep her firmly on the hunt to prove the accused innocence.

EASY INNOCENCE shines a light on a very real topic, teens pimping teens and young women near or just at the age of consent (sometimes younger) prostituting themselves for the purpose of acquiring material wealth – it’s a deliberately unsettling take on an issue operating covertly in plain sight. The parents, mostly ignorant to their children’s out of school activities soon learn just how easy their innocent existence is lost.

Libby Fischer-Hellmann writes EASY INNOCENCE in a very convincing manner. The situations the characters find themselves are plausible and the actions of Davis and co are just in their pursuit or hindrance of justice. This was a very quick read – not due to the page count but rather the quality of writing – EASY INNOCENCE is easy to read and flows very well from one chapter to the next. I will certainly be tracking down further Georgia Davis novels if EASY INNOCENCE is anything to go by.

Overall, this is a highly entertaining crime fiction where the subject matter doesn’t reflect the shiny and affluent facade of the crime – a subtly heinous affair which will keep you engrossed from the violent beginning to startling end. 4 stars.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Review: SNOW WHITE MUST DIE by Nele Neuhaus

Snow White Must DieSNOW WHITE MUST DIE is a German crime novel full of complex twists and tangled webs of lies. An eleven year murder resurfaces when the convicted killer is released back into the small town community and a 17yr old goes missing. However, something much more harrowing and sinister is unearthed as Detective Inspector Pia Kirchhoff digs deep into the investigation eleven years earlier and discovers holes in the prosecution. Revisiting the case yields new information and the discovery of a deep seeded plan of corruption and corroboration by townsfolk in high positions directly relating to the murders of Laura and Stefanie. While Bondenstien, Pia’s boss investigates crimes of the present day targeted against Tobias and his family.

It’s easily apparent that the two lead detectives have featured in previous books (which I believe have not yet been translated to English) yet Neuhaus writes them so well that their respective back-stories are explained through a drip feed of information throughout the course of the novel meaning the pre-reads aren’t a necessity. While the plot drives SNOW WHITE MUST DIE, it’s the well rounded and beautifully crafted characters that really engross the reader. I was surprised to find myself sympathising with the originally touted killer of Snow White, the convicted Tobias and his family (with whom suffered unjustly for crimes they weren’t privy) and rode the bumpy personal rollercoaster of Bodenstein’s domestic situation and Pia’s struggle to maintain her home despite a rather unfair land ownership mishap.

SNOW WHITE MUST DIE contains jaw dropping scenes of cruelty inflicted upon the unjust by perpetrators fuelled by their murderous convictions. The constant shift and change of direction makes it hard to pinpoint who is on the right side of the law. Neuhaus slides her characters around a proverbial chest board to craft this deeply engrossing crime fiction. No one is who they seem to be and I had a great time trying to guess the outcome.

I hope more of the German books in this series get translated as not only would they compliment SNOW WHITE MUST DIE (the 4th book in the series – though it reads well as a standalone) but it would also bring new meaning to some of the minor character interactions, notably those within the police force itself.

This is one of those books you can’t help but read. When I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it, and when I was reading it I didn’t want it to end. Few police procedurals have drawn me in like SNOW WHITE MUST DIE. I highly recommend it – 5 stars.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Best Reads of 2012

I read 181 books in 2012 (a record reading year for me), as a result I consumed some very high quality print both in dtb (dead tree book) and kindle format. The below list was hard to compile, mainly due to the volume of reads and partially due to my own rules I've created when compiling such lists.

To the rules: I dont count re-reads (books I've read more than once in past years), I dont generally count 'series' books unless it's completely mind shattering, and I dont allow my list to contain more than 1 book by a given author. My list, my rules.

This 'best of list' is a list of READS from 2012 - books I managed to get through which could've been published years ago, not books solely released in 2012. I know I've missed out on some great new releases that I'll get around to at some stage (current TBR - just shy of 250) so, no doubt those will feature later.

There goes - enough of my babbling, below is my list in no particular order of the books I most enjoyed - the cream of the crop in what was a very satisfying reading year:

*Note – I couldn’t keep it to 10, so below are the top 15 reads of 2012:

Dare Me Edge of Dark Water The Devil All the Time

Wee Rockets Blood on the Mink The Vanity Game

The Platinum Loop What it Was The Robbers

Butch Fatale, Dyke Dick - Double D Double Cross  The Cocktail Waitress No Orchids For Miss Blandish

The Wrong Goodbye Dove Season Battle Royale