Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Review: ONCE A WARRIOR by Anthony Neil Smith

Once a WarriorReprising thier murderous roles as Bahdoon and Mr Muhammad respectively,  Mustafa and son Adem find themselves in different countries risking their lives to rescue two women; for Mustafa its his cousins daughter illegally trafficked into the sex trade in the US, for Adem, its Sufia,  a former beauty burnt by the life she used to lead yet one that still poses a possible future for Adem in Yemen.
 
Gang wars, torture techniques, CIA, and life on the cusp of conspiracy - ONCE A WARRIOR has it all. Much like its predecessor,  this sequel has a lot going on. Author Anthony Neil Smith switches the narrative between his two protagonists as they each face thier own demons. The approach makes for a clearer rendition of events and provides readers with easily distinguished plot threads that both originate and culminate together.
 
One of the things I like the most about the second book to feature Adem and Mustafa is the growth of characters. While neither shys away from violence they are more mature in their outlook and dont actively seek bloodshed unless there is justification or it's entirely unavoidable. Added to that, the Mr Muhammad persona has got to be one of the most enjoyable personalities I've read, moreso because Adem, the character who slips into this guise is so vastly different.
 
Following the conclusion of the excellent ALL THE YOUNG WARRIORS, I wasn't sure where another story would take these two lead characters, now having finished ONCE A WARRIOR I am crossing everything humanly possible in hope of reading more. I get the feeling we haven't seen the last of these characters with a feeling of continuity and further exploration strong.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Review: SALARYMAN UNBOUND by Erza Kyrill Erker

Salaryman UnboundWhite collar crime runs red in this exceptionally well executed noir of an unassuming office worker with a macabre fascination for murder.

Iwasaki Shiro; family man, provider,  middle aged, hardworking, murder obsessed is the central character who, on face value seems to have all a family man could want. However,  scratch the surface and the truth bleeds through. Tired of not being respected by his kids, fed up with his controlling wife, set up for a fall by his work - his thoughts become dominated by a desire to kill. Anyone.

What makes SALARYMAN UNBOUND work so well is Shiro's inability to follow through despite his best intentions. Throughout the novel opportunities present yet there is always something getting in the way, prohibiting that ultimate act of violence. Adding to this is a deeper plot that doesn't become apparent until the final pages. Author Ezell Kyrill Erker executes one smart and compounding twist that both compliments and turns the plot on its head.

If I were to compare Ezell Kyrill Erker to other authors for style and subject matter I'd best describe him as a mix of Jason Starr and Ryu Murakami. Equally as talented and if SALARYMAN UNBOUND is anything to go by, an equally successful career looms.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Review: PINK FACTORY a Crime Factory Special


Pink Factory: A Crime Factory SpecialEscape into eroticism, the penultimate sleaze pulp homage that is PINK FACTORY drips pornographic propaganda paraphrased in pulse pounding paragraphs seductively penned in short stories and entertaining/ informative essays.

Teasing the taboo and running a calloused hand over the firm embodiment of sexuality this latest instalment of Crime Factory arouses the suspicion of what is often said but not heard. The short stories that comprise this latest instalment introduce the reader to a world not unlike their own, yet one that is without inhibition and spotlights the sex industry in its many incarnations.

Fiction as foreplay, Fanning for Man by Criseyda Lake stars proceeding andisoddly one of the more subdued pieces. Quickly introducing a young woman on the brink; her desires drowning her senses in a haze of wanton need. A public display of affection leads to a deeper questioning of her ability to commit to more than a quick fix with a willing companion. A quickie that wets the appetite.

He by Louis Bravos switches focus to a casual encounter aboard public transport that leads to a very erotic conclusion inside a love hotel. While Pain and Suffering by Julia Madeline explores the master/slave complex with a hint at something murderous on the horizon. 

The Cumsluts of Oz by L. Scott Jose depicts a spin on reality television and the webcam industry – one where the stars are rarely clothed. Catering to the humorous and the horny alike it’s one of the best short stories in PINK FACTORY. I particularly liked the time taken to make the characters three dimensional, Smoo and Samantha’s relationship is a real highlight. Another of my favourites is Suitcase Pimp by Michael S. Chong,  a seductive tale about actress working and falling for her porno star idol Jess Diamond, resulting in her boyfriend being left on the outer only to succumb to the frailties of love in an industry that requires a degree of emotional detachment. It’s a tale of murder, love, lust and betrayal; noir perfected in porno.

Buran by Koray introduces a fictitious world of f#cking, fighting, and fantasy where combatants collide in a deadly embrace leading to slicing, submission and penetration; best summarised as fornication in fighting.

Through Windows by Paul Heatley takes to the Peeping Tom pervert and couples it with experimentation/exploitation sex that has a profound effect on a 17yr olds life. While stories like Go See Gertie by Gin Oliver and The Wolves of Budapest offer more diversity, not only within the sex trade but genre fiction.

Adding to the enjoyable collection of stories are essays covering all angles; from superheroes, unorthodox and illegal use of animal farms, music, and pulp books to name a few. Not only does PINK FACTORY provide the reader with a form of erotic escapism but also educates through well researched and engaging nonfiction essays.

Pick up PINK FACTORY, it will satisfy.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Review: COLD IN JULY by Joe R Lansdale

Cold in JulyCOLD IN JULY is one of those books that fools the reader into a false sence of security before sweeping the rug out from underneath. Initially resembling a run of the mill crime novel, COLD IN JULY treats the reader with three distinct acts/stanzas, all a natural progression from one another. Beginning with a home robbery,  then turning private eye, to ending a violent vigilante, COLD IN JULY provides three distinct reader experiences each as good as the other.
 
Woken by the sound of an intruder,  husband and father of one, Richard Dane, murders the would-be robber in an act of pure self defense, kill or be killed. Little did he know the mans father would be released from a lengthy stay in jail shortly after learning of his sons murder resulting in more violence and invasion of Danes family home. Revenge runs red in the eyes of the beholder.
 
Just when you think you know where this story is going,  author Joe R Lansdale hits you in the face with a double aught. Que police cover ups, Dixie Mafia, FBI witness protection, snuff films, and broken hearts. Not forgetting an uneasy alliance between Dane and Ben Russell, the recently freed from jail father. Lansdale really makes this multidimensional crime piece simmer in tension,  steadily boiling over to violence.
 
I really enjoyed COLD IN JULY and can't wait to see the film adaptation.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Review: DARK WATERS by J.B Turner


Dark WatersDARK WATERS is the second book to feature Miami Herald reporter Deb Jones and chronicles her continued rise in the journalistic world of crime reporting following the excellent MIAMI REQUIEM.  Rather than a hard hitting popular styled crime fiction, DARK WATERS is a conspiracy thriller that thrusts Deb, Sam and other members of the Miami Herald into a world of peril and violence.

When approached by a computer hacker to potentially unearth the lost pages of a 9/11 report, Deb, at first sceptical agrees to meet in a public venue; her reporter instincts not allowing her to walk away from a story involving the CIA, Government, and shady international dealings. However, the hacker ends up dead and she is forced to swim through a world of corruption and secrets to discover the non-disclosed material.

Author JB Turner sways from the traditional crime formula that made MIAMI REQUIEM so enjoyable in favour of catering to the conspiracy theorists and delving into the shady under-the-table-dealings of high end Government corruption to depict a deadly game of cat and mouse with Deb almost assuming a David role in a David and Goliath struggle for the truth.  

This series could easily be mainstream with DARK WATERS coming across as being written more towards that crowd. Not a bad thing by any means, I just wish the romantic elements were a tad less in-your-face, perhaps more blasé rather than Hollywood-happy-ending-style.  That said, DARK WATERS is a nice evolution of character and certainly sets the scene for a multi dimensional series not contained to any one specific genre. I hope we get a chance to read more of Deb Jones.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Scare Yourself With These Horror Reads!

The Girl Next DoorDue to a broken hand my recent ability to post has been limited but that hasn't stopped me from satisfying my craving for reading.  Lately I've been on a horror kick having read THE PEOPLE NEXT DOOR by Christopher Ransom, THE TROOP by Nick Cutter,  THE LAST WEREWOLF by Glen Duncan, and THE GIRL NEXT DOOR by Jack Ketchum.  Currently I'm reading the excellent NOS4A2 by Joe Hill.
 
Of the recently completed books, THE GIRL NEXT DOOR is the pick of a very good bunch.  Based on a true story,  THE GIRL NEXT DOOR is a difficult read yet one that is hard to put down once you get started. Made more heinous by virtue of its true crime origins,  the fictionalized account of a teenage girl's prolonged torture at the hands of her caregivers and neighborhood kids has all the hallmarks of a classic Ketchum horror with an added element of suspense and omnipresent dredd.
 
The TroopExplicitly gory, THE TROOP at times makes for stomach churning reading. The animal cruelty depicted is a little off putting and could easily offend the sensitive reader. While in context it did detract from the humanist horror inflicted upon the troop of boy scouts. Set on an isolated island a group of young boys and their scout leader fall victim to a man made virus that resembles a bout of worms but far deadlier.  I found it to be a decent survival horror of sorts that borrows from LORD OF THE FLIES but doesn't capture the same level of emotional complexity.
 
The People Next DoorTHE PEOPLE NEXT DOOR by Christopher Ransom (one of my favourite horror authors) blends a number of horror elements to create a deeply suspenseful and scary tale that is more readable by virtue of its interestng cast of characters than plot. Starting with a very engaging opening, THE PEOPLE NEXT DOOR suffers from lofty expectations semi fulfilled. A stock standard middle class family, struggling to make ends meet has strange and mysterious neighbours who turn out to be anything but normal. Throughout the novel I kept thinking either aliens or vampires - I wont spoil which. Despite it's predictability, I enjoyed THE PEOPLE NEXT DOOR.
 
The Last Werewolf (The Last Werewolf, #1)A werewolf story narrated by the last of the species, Jack, a 200-odd year old who has been hunted by not only those who seek to rid the world of supernatual beings, but also vampires who want to see his blood flow red for different reasons altogether. Isolation and longing, a consistent theme throughout. Glen Duncan, as per usual, writes beautifully to provide his characters a voice as well as an established lore and gradual evloution of 'the last werewolf'. TALLULA RISING indeed.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Review: ST KILDA BLUES by Geoffrey McGeachin


St Kilda BluesMelbourne, Australia circa 1967 is rocked with the multiple disappearances of young women. Detective Charlie Berlin is tasked to find one of these in a parallel investigation covertly running alongside the public police hunt.

The missing teenager is the daughter of a prominent local identity with important political connections. To aid Berlin’s quest to track down the missing teen is the dapper detective with questionable allegiances Bob Roberts. The duo makes for interesting reading with one clearly on the take while the other is by-the-book and a seemingly honest hardworking cop.

As the two swim through the current of Melbourne’s underbelly they learn more about the depths of despair drowning many a family who are enduring a loss equal to that of the lead investigation. When one of the missing girls is found dead, the pressure mounts from the public and secretive sides of the investigation ultimately sending Berlin down a spiralling path that leads him to confront some of his past horrors.

ST KILDA BLUES is the third book to feature Charlie Berlin and despite not being familiar with the previous books, I found ST KILDA BLUES to be an easily readable standalone.

There is a lot to take in with author Geoffrey McGeachin going to great lengths to provide an insight into the criminal mind as well as articulating Berlin’s POW and confrontation flash blacks. Whilst adding context it did have a tendency to dilute the primary story.

One of the more enjoyable aspects of ST KILDA BLUES is the fact that it goes beyond the standard issue police procedural with the later stages in particular providing a great amount of emotional turmoil for some of the characters.

Having read ST KILDA BLUES, I’ll certainly be looking to track down copies of THE DIGGERS REST HOTEL (published 2010) and BLACKWATTLE CREEK (2012).

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Catching Up On Crime: LOST THINGS (2012) by John Rector


Lost Things: A NovellaAn encounter with a drunken would-be-robber leaves lifelong friends Evan and Peter in a state of shock and a world of hurt. The ultimately fatal encounter results in one of the would-be-robbers being killed and the other severely beaten in the name of self-defence. It’s what happens next that turns author John Rectors’ thriller from run of the mill to deeply suspenseful and gratifying.

LOST THINGS exhibits all the hallmarks of a modern day crime thriller with shades of noir where the victims/perpetrators are at the forefront and the police procedural aspects next to non-existent. This results in the reader being given the opportunity to connect with the characters on a more intimate level and develop an understanding of the reasons behind their actions.

What I really like about LOST THINGS is the level of detail Rector goes to in depicting a very much damaged and dangerously confronting serial killer from what initially resembles one half of a buddy relationship. It’s this dramatic and almost demonic evolution that provides the highlight of the novella.

As the story progresses we see a deeper seeded evil emerge and subsequent shudder inducing elements that bring fear and an unabridged sympathy for the protagonist, Evan.

Much like the other works of John Rector I’ve had the pleasure of reading (THE GROVE being my favourite); LOST THINGS captivated me from start to finish.

Advance Review: A SWOLLEN RED SUN by Matthew McBride


A Swollen Red SunAs unpredictable and violent as the meth trade and those who swarm towards its deathly drug addled embrace, A SWOLLEN RED SUN is the raw, uncut, pure embodiment of noir versed in a kind of hick/back water literature akin to Daniel Woodrell.

When Deputy Sheriff Banks discovers a hidden stash of cash in a cooks’ trailer buried beneath kitty litter and excrement, he can’t turn a blind eye. Thinking it a victimless crime of sorts (Jerry Dean, the trailers occupant cant report the cash stolen by virtue of how he accumulated it), Banks proceeds to go out his daily policing without much thought of potential repercussions. Until the body count starts to pile – on both sides of the law.

Wading through a pool of blood, Banks sticky red footprints leave pools of violence and torment across Gasconade Country. From local farming establishments to the terrors of Goat Hill, no one is immune to the call of the reaper.  

Author Matthew McBride (who also wrote FRANK SINATRA IN A BENDER, a PI novel) has once again delivered an utterly enthralling read that surpasses his previous novel and puts him into the upper echelon of noir writers.

A SWOLLEN RED SUN has everything – mystery, intrigue, murder, backstabbing, believable characters, well defined place-setting, and a damn good storyline. Without a doubt one of the best books of 2014.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Review: MONA by Dan Sehlberg


MonaSamir Mustaf, a Lebanese MIT Professor knows heartache and pain, having lost his family due to a devastating cluster bomb brought into his home by his young daughter Mona, he vows for revenge if only to satisfy a deep seeded urge for violent retaliation. Knowing he can’t bring his daughter back from dead, he uses his education and skills in information technology to aide a terrorist organisation in disrupting the world’s economical balance brining chaos and fear into the homes of innocents across the globe.

Eric Soderqvist is a professor of computer science in Stockholm and his wife Hanna, an employee at TBI, the most internal of Israel’s banks – both unwilling find themselves pawns in Samir’s plight.

Eric, having created Mind Surf, a radical new technology which blurs the lines between AI and biology to bring the wonders of the World Wide Web to the blind by virtue of the ability to surf the net by thought alone has his worst fears realised when Hanna and Mind Surf investor Mats Hagstrom enter into a coma after testing the tech. 

Hanna, for her part, happens to be looking at the TBI’s website, ground zero for Samir’s evolutionary computer virus, Mona, whilst testing Mind Surf. The computer virus infects Hanna sending Eric on a spiralling mission across continents in search of the anti-virus that only Samir has.

MONA is an engrossing and addictive tech-fi thriller that infects the readers’ imagination from the heartbreak prologue through to the satisfying epilogue.

Author Dan Sehlberg has written a true readers’ delight, think Michael Crichton (author of NEXT) or Daniel Suarez (author of DAEMON) – only better.