Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Catching up: THE ROSARY GIRLS by Richard Montanari

The Rosary Girls (Jessica Balzano & Kevin Byrne, #1)
From the back of the book:
Someone is killing devout young women, bolting their hands together in prayer, and committing an abomination upon their otherwise perfect bodies. Byrne and Balzano spearhead the hunt for the serial killer, who leads them on a methodically planned journey. Suspects appear before them like bad dreams–and vanish just as quickly. And while Byrne’s sins begin to catch up with him, and Balzano tries to solve the blood-splattered puzzle, the body count rises. Meanwhile, the calendar is approaching Easter and the day of the resurrection. When the last rosary is counted, a madman’s methods will be revealed, and the final crime will be the one that hurts the most.

My Review:
THE ROSARY GIRLS is a solid conventional police procedural that pits its protagonists against a heinous spate of crimes that surprisingly spans a short period of time. Throughout the course of a week, new homicide detective Jessica Balzano and her seasoned partner Kevin Byrne are haunted by the ghosts of the Rosary Killers victims; searching for answers in holy places to solve unholy acts of horror.

As the first book in the Balzano and Byrne series, THE ROSARY GIRLS reads rather deep. Byrne is a vet with baggage; murder on his conscious and a personal life devoid of human contact outside of the job. While Balzano isn't your typical rookie cop on the beat. She's a boxer with who packs a punch in the ring just as well as she handles the murder book.

Despite the page count clocking in at 500 (for the mass market paperback) THE ROSARY GIRLS is actually a quick read. I managed to knock it off in three sittings. This is both a sign of a good writer and an engaging plot. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

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's what I'm reading this week: 

The Rosary Girls (Jessica Balzano & Kevin Byrne, #1)THE ROSARY GIRLS by Richard Montanari 

Kevin Byrne is a veteran cop who already knows that edge: He’s been living on it far too long. His marriage failing, his former partner wasting away in a hospital, and his heart lost to mad fury, Byrne loves to take risks and is breaking every rule in the book. And now he has been given a rookie partner. Jessica Balzano, the daughter of a famous Philly cop, doesn’t want Byrne’s help. But they will need each other desperately, since they’ve just caught the case of a lifetime: Someone is killing devout young women, bolting their hands together in prayer, and committing an abomination upon their otherwise perfect bodies.

Byrne and Balzano spearhead the hunt for the serial killer, who leads them on a methodically planned journey. Suspects appear before them like bad dreams–and vanish just as quickly. And while Byrne’s sins begin to catch up with him, and Balzano tries to solve the blood-splattered puzzle, the body count rises. Meanwhile, the calendar is approaching Easter and the day of the resurrection. When the last rosary is counted, a madman’s methods will be revealed, and the final crime will be the one that hurts the most.


The Invisible Man from SalemTHE INVISIBLE MAN FROM SALEM by Christoffer Carlsson

A bestselling and award-winning first volume in a trilogy by Sweden's leading noir crime novelist, starring a troubled police officer called Leo Junker.

In the final days of summer in 2013, a young woman is shot dead in her apartment. Three floors above, the blue lights of the police cars awaken Leo Junker, a longtime police officer. Leo works in the Internal Affairs division as the lowliest form of officer — a spy. Leo is even lower, however, having been suspended after committing a terrible mistake. In what became known as the 'Gotland Affair', a police officer was accidentally killed, and Leo was found holding the offending weapon. But he wants to help on this case, despite being on mandatory leave, because this woman has connections to people from his past. Now, in the backstreets, shadowed alleyways, and decaying suburbs of Stockholm ́s underground, the search for the young woman ́s killer — and the truth of the Gotland Affair —begins.


DREAMING DEEP by Anonymous 9

A 16,000-word novelette of horror on the high seas featuring the hardworking men and women of the Port of Long Beach.

The story follows the tragic circumstances of an American ship captain who appears to lose his sanity after the disappearance of his teenage son from a dock in Long Beach, California. 

The tale pays tribute to the Cthulhu mythos created by horror master H.P. Lovecraft.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Review: PRIEST by Ken Bruen (Jack Taylor #5)

Priest (Jack Taylor, #5)PRIEST follows on from the shocking events at the end of THE DRAMATIST and is every bit as good as it predecessor. The only gripe I have, is Bruen tends to lean towards the formulaic, albeit, a formula he devised himself with THE PRIEST mirroring THE DRAMATIST in many ways; the cases are in the peripheral and there is a death that once again threatens to turn the reformed Jack Taylor into the drug addled drunk he once was.

Without spoiling the story, lets say Jack Taylor is back to his…err, best while at the same time being a little different and more well rounded. 

PRIEST is littered with easter eggs for Bruen fans including references to THE KILLING OF THE TINKERS and provides further insight into some of the more memorable characters Bruen has created throughout the series. Reading PRIEST you get a real sense that this is but one piece of the larger Jack Taylor story. 

I'm enjoying my reread of this series with each book being equal to or better than the first read. 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Catching Up: THE SCIENCE OF PAUL by Aaron Philip Clark

The Science of Paul: A Novel of CrimeFrom the back of the book:
Ex-convict Paul Little has just walked out on the only woman who has ever loved him to return to a life of crime in Philadelphia. But when Paul gets involved with a petty thug who is later murdered, he finds himself pinned between the volatile gangster accused of the crime and the straight-laced detective who put Paul away years ago. Realizing the city may be the death of him, Paul looks to escape to North Carolina and live alone on a farm left to him by his recently deceased grandfather. Can Paul survive long enough to make it to the succor of the farm? Will he inevitably return to a life behind bars? Or is it his fate to die a victim in Philadelphia? The Science of Paul is a stunning tale of redemption and self-exploration, as one man navigates the precariousness of the streets and the inner workings of his mind.

My Review:
Paul Little is an ex-con with a destructive personality. Looking for loopholes in life to dodge normalcy he reverts to a life on the mean Philadelphia streets, breaking off a relationship with his level-headed girlfriend, and as soon as his parole period ends, breaks off all ties to the straight and narrow. Why? Well, this really isn't explained apart from the broad sweeping 'call of the streets'. 

This frustrated me. Paul didn't have a gang or criminal crew to return to. There was no loyalty to any criminal faction or particular affinity to underworld dealings (apart from a loose connection with a barbershop front) - so why did Paul revert to the dangerous and blood soaked life on the streets of Philadelphia? After reading THE SCIENCE OF PAUL, I still don't know the answer. That's not to say I didn't have a good time reading the book.

Paul post Tammy (the ex-girlfriend) makes for entertaining reading. He manages to get involved in a murder, acts as a stand-over man, and gets in deep trouble with the law. All those aspects were great. Plus, he's a character with a conscious - of sorts - remember, the criminal life crept back into his being so he was never going to be irredeemable, which suits me fine. 

Author Aaron Philip Clark knows how to write. THE SCIENCE OF PAUL is downright brutal at times, balanced with a poetic narrative that screams noir. Yet, the major fault, in my opinion, is the rationale. I need to know why Paul sought out the life he did rather than settling for a generic catch phrase. 

The SCIENCE OF PAUL is good but it could have been great. 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Bookish Thoughts: On Library Book Sales

Library book sales. 

They can be hit or miss. 

The quality of books can range from like-new to well-worn to food-and-non disclosed-substance-stuck-to-the-pages. I've experienced reads from each of those categories, yet something continues to draw me to these sales, imperfections be damned. 

Obvious reason no.1 - the thrill of the hunt. As a self proclaimed bibliophile there is nothing better than discovering a diamond in the rough, that hidden gem of a book you've been searching for and, at long last find. Ditto for discovering new reads that lead to unearthing more authors and subsequent 'series' books to add to the ever growing wishlist.

Obvious reason no.2 - the price. Library sales are a great way to feed the habit without breaking the bank. Then only thing I tend to be mindful of, is when purchasing a book, you don't purchase the additional time to read it. Maintaining a reasonable sized trb pile is a constant problem - but a nice one. I've become more selective of my reads, and, as such, tend to look for books I KNOW I want to read - see 'want' not 'will' - I like to allow for some wriggle room there.


My local (when I'm at work) library is Adelaide City. Adelaide City Libraries have regular Recycled Reads book sales to recycle older resources which have been removed from their collections.

With new material added to the collection all the time the library is constantly reviewing the collection and removing older items as they become outdated or are no longer borrowed. Items removed from the collection are offered to the community through a range of book sales including small ongoing sales trolleys at City Library, North Adelaide Community Centre and Library and the Hutt Street Library.


They hold Recycled Reads sales on the first Friday of each month at the City Library in Studio One. 


In addition pop-up sales are held from time to time with today being the date of one of those 'pop-up sales'! 

So...how did my treasure hunting go today? Well, as many as four new books could have found their way to my personal home library, alas, I, only bought the one (applying my tbr acquisition logic as mentioned above) - and it was a great pick-up! BITTER WASH ROAD by Aussie crime writer Garry Disher. I'm super excited about this book as it's set in Adelaide (my home town) and has been on my wishlist since the day it came out! 

Bitter Wash RoadFrom the back of the book:
Hirsch is a whistle-blower. Formerly a promising metropolitan officer, now hated and despised. Exiled to a one-cop station in South Australia's wheatbelt. Threats, Pistol cartridge in the mailbox.

So when he heads up Bitter Wash Road to investigate gunfire and finds himself cut off without backup, there are two possibilities. Either he's found the fugitive killers thought to be in the area. Or his 'backup' is about to put a bullet in him.

He's wrong on both counts. But the events that unfold turn out to be a hell of a lot more sinister.

- - - - - - - - - 

Despite walking away with just the one read, I'd call today's outcome a success. 

Review: THE COMEDY IS FINISHED by Donald Westlake

The Comedy is Finished (Hard Case Crime #105)Koo Davis is a comedian past his prime. Having lived a lavish life performing across the country and providing light relief to the American army during wartime, he now finds himself in the hands of a band of criminals who are using him as a pawn to free ten imprisoned activists. 

Set in 1977, THE COMEDY IS FINISHED is a period piece that is very much a product of its time. The political landscape is at the forefront, and socialist viewpoints and present day issues are littered throughout the narrative to provide a true sense of time and place. Given Westlake wrote the book in the 1970's, you'd expect it to contain much of what was prevalent during that time in American history - and it does.    

The plot revolves around the kidnapping of Koo and the FBI's intervention in trying to get him back in one piece without having to free the prisoners or cater to the kidnappers other demands too willingly. 

The writing focuses on all key parties; Koo, his history and current predicament, the law enforcement agencies, and the kidnappers themselves. This allows for the reader to develop a well rounded appreciation of the situation and what the outcome means to the characters. My only gripe is that I wanted Liz, the naked and crazy torturer to play a bigger part. Westlake wrote a real winner in her and I feel she was somewhat underdeveloped - it's a minor gripe that doesn't impact the story.

THE COMEDY IS FINISHED is also not without a twist or two which leads to nice little revelations that provide further context to the story. Readers of Richard Stark's Parker series will see some common elements in the writing; namely the ability to craft a group of characters and make them all have a purpose in the book.   

Overall, THE COMEDY IS FINISHED is one of the more enjoyable Westalke books published by Hardcase Crime. I highly recommend it. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Catching Up: IN THE MORNING I'LL BE GONE by Adrian McKinty (audio edition)

In the Morning I'll Be GoneFrom the back of the book:
A spectacular escape and a man-hunt that could change the future of a nation - and lay one man's past to rest. Sean Duffy's got nothing. And when you've got nothing to lose, you have everything to gain. So when MI5 come knocking, Sean knows exactly what they want, and what he'll want in return, but he hasn't got the first idea how to get it. Of course he's heard about the spectacular escape of IRA man Dermot McCann from Her Majesty's Maze prison. And he knew, with chilly certainty, that their paths would cross. But finding Dermot leads Sean to an old locked room mystery, and into the kind of danger where you can lose as easily as winning. From old betrayals and ancient history to 1984's most infamous crime, Sean tries not to fall behind in the race to annihilation. Can he outrun the most skilled terrorist the IRA ever created? And will the past catch him first?

My Review:
The third book in the 'troubles' series, once again brilliantly narrated by Gerald Doyle takes Sean Duffy, newly assigned to Special Branch back to his youth in search of an IRA man with whom he once shared a passing acquaintance. On the surface, this prison escapee manhunt seems like a criminal game of cat and mouse. Scratch that brittle and blood encrusted surface a little and the story bleeds over that preconception, evolving into a dangerous tale of terror complimented by a secondary plot of the good old fashioned whodunit variety. 

As far as the Sean Duffy books go, IN THE MORNING I'LL BE GONE isn't as strong as the other two (THE COLD, COLD GROUND is my personal favorite) which isn't to say it's not a good book - rather the earlier books set the bar very high. 

As usual the characters drive the story with Duffy, his handlers, and to an extent Dermot himself dictating the course of events and pushing/pulling the reader in different directions. This book, did have more of a lone-wolf vibe to it replacing the police procedural theme of the previous installments which worked well with the MI5 angle to maintain a semi shroud of secrecy  in the line of counter terrorism. 

Next up: 

Gun Street Girl: A Detective Sean Duffy Novel, The Troubles, Book 4 | [Adrian McKinty]

Other books in the Sean Duffy series:

THE COLD, COLD GROUND (book #1) - this book featured in my Favorite Reads of 2014

I HEAR SIRENS IN THE STREET (book #2)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Bookish Thoughts: On Reading Crime Fiction

The Dramatist (Jack Taylor, #4)I've been reacquainting myself with my favorite genre of fiction over the past few weeks, hitting my crime fiction collection hard and reading some excellent books along the binge (all of which are reviewed on this blog). 

I often undertake these sorts of reading patterns. Mixing it up from my typical eclectic nature then morphing into genre junkie. Lucky for me I had (and still have) a number of top choice crime reads sitting in my tbr as well as loads of books that I want to re-read (I'm working through a re-read of the Jack Taylor series by Ken Bruen for instance) to feed the habit.

The crime fiction genre is deep, do I dare say endless? It seems I'm discovering new crime reads each week that I simply MUST READ. Let alone those I'm still get to in that ever expanding tbr pile.

Which brings me to this post - not always does a book binge bring about a plethora of good fortune - there are some less than great reads and some 'meh' ones to tarnish the streak - such is life, however, this past couple of weeks has yielded some fantastic books that I'm sure will feature on my 'best-of' lists at years end. 

And those books? 

CANARY by Duane Swierczynski, THE PORT FAIRY MURDERS by Robert Gott, LIFE OR DEATH by Michael Robotham, THE DRAMATIST by Ken Bruen, TRUNK MUSIC by Michael Connelly.

Now that's a pretty impressive line-up there. 

The Science of Paul: A Novel of CrimeYou can read the reviews for each of the above by clicking on the links below:

CANARY

THE PORT FAIRY MURDERS

THE DRAMATIST (Jack Taylor book #4)

LIFE OR DEATH

TRUNK MUSIC (Harry Bosch book #5)

Adding to this I'm currently reading THE COMEDY IS FINISHED by Donald Westlake to be followed by THE SCIENCE OF PAUL by Aaron Philip Clark so this streak looks like it's safe to continue. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

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.

This week I'm continuing my recent crime binge:

To check out last weeks' entry, click HERE 

The Comedy is Finished (Hard Case Crime #105)THE COMEDY IS FINISHED by Donald Westlake

The year is 1977, and America is finally getting over the nightmares of Watergate and Vietnam and the national hangover that was the 1960s. But not everyone is ready to let it go. 

Not aging comedian Koo Davis, friend to generals and presidents and veteran of countless USO tours to buck up American troops in the field. And not the five remaining members of the self-proclaimed People's Revolutionary Army, who've decided that kidnapping Koo Davis would be the perfect way to bring their cause back to life...

The final, previously unpublished novel from the legendary Donald Westlake!


The Science of Paul: A Novel of CrimeTHE SCIENCE OF PAUL by Aaron Philip Clark

Ex-convict Paul Little has just walked out on the only woman who has ever loved him to return to a life of crime in Philadelphia. But when Paul gets involved with a petty thug who is later murdered, he finds himself pinned between the volatile gangster accused of the crime and the straight-laced detective who put Paul away years ago. Realizing the city may be the death of him, Paul looks to escape to North Carolina and live alone on a farm left to him by his recently deceased grandfather. Can Paul survive long enough to make it to the succor of the farm? Will he inevitably return to a life behind bars? Or is it his fate to die a victim in Philadelphia? The Science of Paul is a stunning tale of redemption and self-exploration, as one man navigates the precariousness of the streets and the inner workings of his mind.

Priest (Jack Taylor, #5)PRIEST by Ken Bruen (the fifth installment in my Jack Taylor series re-read)

Ireland, awash with cash and greed, no longer turns to the Church for solace or comfort. But the decapitation of Father Joyce in a Galway confessional horrifies even the most jaded citizen.

Jack Taylor, devastated by the recent trauma of personal loss, has always believed himself to be beyond salvation. But a new job offers a fresh start, and an unexpected partnership provides hope that his one desperate vision, of family, might yet be fulfilled. 

An eerie mix of exorcism, a predatory stalker, and unlikely attraction conspires to lure him into a murderous web of dark conspiracies. The specter of a child haunts every waking moment.


Interview: Amanda Bridgeman (author of the AURORA series)


Each week throughout March I've be dedicating a blog post, be it in the form of a review, author interview, essay, or recap of the Aurora series by Aussie Sci-Fi author Amanda Bridgeman to celebrate the forthcoming release of the latest book in the Aurora series, AURORA CENTRALIS (book #4) - and today, my marks the last post in the official blog tour over here at Just A Guy That Likes To Read and we're going out in style with an interview! Many thanks to Amanda for taking the time to respond to a few questions about CENTRALIS and the series to date. 

You can read my review of AURORA CENTRALIS HERE.


author image(Josh) Your latest book in the Aurora series, AURORA: CENTRALIS continues to develop Welles, McKinley, Doc, Sharley and co. How much fun is it to write these characters and see them grow with each book?

(Amanda) It’s been awesome fun to write these characters! They’ve very much become family to me, and I hope they’ve become family/friends to my readers also.  As I write character-driven sci-fi, it’s really important that the readers feel like they know the characters but also that they fell they’ve seen them evolve and grow. We’ve now hit book four, and I think that if my readers look back on the crew as they were in Darwin, they will easily see the growth and change the characters have gone through, not only in their relationships, but in themselves also.

Your books comprise action, adventure, thrills, and deeply character focused plots. What draws you to telling these sorts of stories, and, in particular, to set them in outer space?

I’ve always loved a good drama and I’ve always loved action/sci-fi/horror, so for me it was about bringing all these elements together – with a little bit of romance – to create a story that I myself would want to read. I think SFF worlds, be it set in space or otherwise, allow the reader to escape from reality for a while, and we all need that sometimes. At the same time, realistic characters keep readers anchored to reality, and hence give them some familiarity. I see the Aurora books as giving readers the best of both worlds - a nice blend of realism and escapism.

Aurora: Centralis (Aurora 4)One of the elements to AURORA: CENTRALIS I really enjoyed was the glimpse into the future. The notion that these ‘jumbos’ go beyond the desires of a madman. Are these glimpses going to be more prevalent in later instalments to coincide with the ‘present-day’ setting of the books?

They certainly are. This series is leading up to a ‘big event’ which will occur in book eight - everything will come to a head in a life and death struggle on a massive scale (although there will be other ‘major events’ in the books leading up to this). Effectively the first four books represent Aurora: Series One, the next four will represent Aurora: Series Two (and ultimately if you want to break it down, Colonel Welles’ story could be considered the prequel!). Book 5 – Aurora: Eden – will be a stepping stone of sorts between the two series or story arcs. The last three books will see some time jumps, but readers don’t need to fear because Carrie, Harris and the Aurora team, aren’t going anywhere. The Aurora series would be nothing without them – so you can expect to see them there right to the end!  Although, whether *all* the members of the Aurora team make it through to the end is another thing….

Space, as you touched upon in your recent guest post on this blog, presents itself with endless opportunities in science fiction – how did you draw together the different aspects of the Aurora series to make it what it is today?

With regards to the world-building of the Aurora series, I basically took inspiration from just about everywhere: films, books, the news! I also work for a project management company in my day job, so I have a basic understanding about construction and town planning, which helped in term of some of the space settings. I wanted things to be a little raw and new for our characters in space; it’s very much the new frontier. If the setting was too advanced then there would be little room for the mystery I’ve worked into the plot. So keeping things less ‘advanced’ in that respect made it easier and more recognisable for readers.

Aurora: DarwinWho are some of the sci-fi authors you seek for inspiration or just to enjoy their stories?

In terms of local writers, some of the SF books I’ve enjoyed recently include: Nina D’Aleo’s ‘The Last City’ and ‘The Forgotten City’, Max Barry’s ‘Lexicon’, Marianne De Pierres’ ‘Peacemaker’. I’m also halfway through Keith Stevenson’s Horizon, which I’m enjoying. For international writers, I really enjoyed Ernest Cline’s ‘Ready Player One’, Andy Weir’s ‘The Martian’ and John Scalzi’s ‘Lock In’.

If you could sum up the Aurora series in a sentence, what would it be?

It’s the tale of two very different people, with one common goal: survival.


What’s next for Carrie Welles and the Aurora series?

Tell, without giving too many spoilers away, both Carrie and Harris have some serious work to do to pull themselves together after what happened in Centralis . . . Once they do, they need to focus firmly on their future, because if they don’t, the consequences could be devastating . . .

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Catching Up: TRUNK MUSIC by Michael Connelly (Bosch #5)

Trunk MusicAs the title suggests, the fifth Harry Bosch book is a murder mystery surrounding the death of a Hollywood shyster whose body was found in the trunk of his car. Having all the hallmarks of a mob hit, Bosch and co turn their attention to the underworld, looking for links between the deceased low budget movie maker and those in a less lawful occupation.

The investigation takes Bosch to the city of sin where he is reunited with a love interest from earlier in the series. This in itself adds a layer of complexity to the case as Eleanor Wise, former agent turned felon is found to have an association with Joey Marks, a mobster who looks good for the hit. With Bosch pressing Marks' business associates for info on the murder, his relationship with Eleanor Wise lands him in the cross-hairs of Internal Affairs (associating with a known felon is a no-no) - forced to fight an uphill battle on both sides of the law, Bosch turns to his trademark grit and determination to ensure justice prevails.

This felt like an Ellroy Hollywood whodunit from the get go and didn't fail to deviate from that path for the most part. Michael Connelly always writes solid police procedurals and TRUNK MUSIC is no different. The plot is as smooth as freshly spilled blood on a slick surface hitting no hurdles unless Connelly wants it to - which he does when the vic, Tony Aliso's past and present extra marital actives are unearthed; deliberatly turning the plot in another direction and making the reader think that little bit harder about who is to blame for the bullets in the body. 

Review: DARK WATER by Ariana D. Den Bleyker

Dark WaterFrom the back of the book:
When Henry’s wife is murdered he’s forced to disappear. Nobody would believe he didn’t kill her. His sister, the only witness, won’t testify. His brother-in-law, the detective, doesn’t trust him. His mistress, the investigating pathologist, won’t help him. They all have their own secrets to protect.

And after all, Henry killed so many others before.

There’s always a price. But if you pay death, then the dead won’t come back to haunt you. Dark Water is a pitch black tale of suicide, torture, murder and revenge as an artist returns to produce his greatest work out of those closest to him.


My Review:
DARK WATER is a novella that will appeal to those readers who like their crime fiction smothered in darkness and submerged in the deep blackness of the human maddened mind. The plot comprises murder, lust, suicidal thoughts, and a killer spirit that can't be tamed - if anything it consumes the characters in their entirety, making for one constant act of unbridled violence

Henry is a killer, one who's lust for macabre art leads him down a path of ultimate destruction that eventually costs him his life. Murders aside, there isn't a lot more to DARK WATER's central character, this despite being a person of interest in his wife's murder.

The style of DARK WATER can be confusing while at the same time artistic. I battled a constant love/hate relationship with this book; had there been a clear path to articulating the violence in a manner that didn't leave the outcome too ambiguous then DARK WATER would've been just that much better. As it was I struggled to form an understanding as to what happened after reading a confrontation that left someone presumably dead only for them to appear later in the book.

I did enjoy the twisted love triangle which is tailored made for noir enthusiasts - this is an element that could have been fleshed out more to provide added depth to the characters and plot. 

Overall, DARK WATER is a pretty decent book and one that I think will get better with subsequent reads. I'll def be going back for a re-read. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Review: CANARY by Duane Swierczynski

CanaryFrom the back of the book:
It's dangerous enough when an ordinary college girl turns confidential informant. Even more dangerous when she's smarter than the killer, kingpins, and cops who control her.

Honors student Sarie Holland is busted by the local police while doing a favor for her boyfriend. Unwilling to betray him but desperate to avoid destroying her future, Sarie has no choice but to become a "CI"--a confidential informant.

Philly narcotics cop Ben Wildey is hungry for a career-making bust. The detective thinks he's found the key in Sarie: her boyfriend scores from a mid-level dealer with alleged ties to the major drug gangs.

Sarie turns out to be the perfect CI...


My Review:
CANARY is one of those books I struggled to put down. The characters are engaging, the narrative is fresh, and the plot is fast paced. Using multiple points of view makes Sarie's soiree into the drug underworld that much more entertaining. Not only does author Duane Swierczynski provide a mechanism for Sarie's own thoughts as she confronts her unfortunate situation head-on via a journal-like blow by blow confession of sorts, but we get an insight into a broken yet glued together family dynamic outside the criminal plot threads thanks to Sarie's father and younger brother (who happens to be gadget bug bidden and highly inquisitive). Then there's the cop and criminal underworld equation that heats up the plot to boiling point. 

CANARY feels like a slight departure from the recent spate of books by Duane Swierczynski by way of incorporating more a mainstream crime feel as apposed to the clever grit of the Charlie Hardie Trilogy - and that's not a bad thing - I always look for diversity in reading and Swierczynki gives us that here. 

As a reader of Swierczynki's BLACK HOOD Phili noir comic (issue #1 published this month by Dark Circle Comics) I found the place setting of CANARY all the more visual and dark. The streets menacing, the cops tainted, the criminals an omnipresent threat. I thought having the visual comparison in this other form fiction, it added another level of enjoyment to the book, though it's certainly not a prerequisite for reading CANARY. 

CANARY is a wonderful read. The characters take a life of their own from the first page they appear and are led down a rabbit hole into the dangerous world of drugs in an all too easy fashion. This is a piece of fiction that reads real. Highly recommended. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Review: LIFE OR DEATH by Michael Robotham

Life or DeathFrom the back of the book:
Audie Palmer has spent a decade in prison for an armed robbery in which four people died, including two of his gang. Five million dollars has never been recovered and everybody believes that Audie knows where the money is.

For ten years he has been beaten, stabbed, throttled and threatened almost daily by fellow inmates and prison guards, who all want to answer this same question, but suddenly Audie vanishes, the day before he's due to be released.

Everybody wants to find Audie, but he's not running. Instead he's trying to save a life . . . and not just his own.

My Review:
LIFE OR DEATH is a standalone read and perhaps author Michael Robotham's best book yet. Departing from his series books, Robotham has crafted a deftly balanced noir infused piece of crime fiction that pulls no punches.

Brimming with heartache, pain, loss, and honesty, LIFE OR DEATH has all the hallmarks of a darker form of crime fiction, the likes of Victor Gischler, Alan Guthrie, Tony Black, and Ken Bruen would appreciate and who have, themselves accomplished. I couldn't help but think of those authors as I was feverishly turning the pages.

The most impressive aspect of LIFE OR DEATH has got to be clever plot flip which changed my perspective of prison escapee Audie Palmer and the missing 7mil of which he's accused of stealing. Robotham sets the story up only to make it all come crashing down in a moment of crystal clarity that is as heart breaking as it is enthralling to read.

I hope readers are treated to more American noir by Robotham in the future. If LIFE OR DEATH is a sign of things to come, Robotham may well be at the top of my list of favorite crime/noir authors.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Review: THE DRAMATIST by Ken Bruen (Jack Taylor #4)

The Dramatist (Jack Taylor, #4)Very few writers can change the course of a book in a single line and that's exactly what author Ken Bruen has done in the fourth installment in the Jack Taylor series, THE DRAMATIST.

As my reread of this excellent quasi private investigator series continued, I was most looking forward to revisiting this book in particular, having faint memories of Jacks cases but being able to recall in vivid detail that moment where Jack once again spirals into a pit of despair. 

Early in the piece I was wondering if the PI work would heat up a little; that didn't eventuate, but then again Jack's sometime day job has generally been on the peripheral, THE DRAMATIST moreso than others as it's Jacks pain and poisoned promise of normalcy that drives the plot. 

While THE DRAMATIST is a must read book, I do prefer the earlier Jack Taylor reads.That said, THE DRAMATIST is a significant story line in this great series.

Below are my reviews of the Jack Taylor books prior to THE DRAMATIST:



Monday, March 16, 2015

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.

This week it's all about crime fiction with a couple of new releases and a re-read of an old favorite

Dark WaterDARK WATER by Ariana D. Den Bleyker (the new novella from Number13 Press)

Love is complicated. Murder even more so...

When Henry’s wife is murdered he’s forced to disappear. Nobody would believe he didn’t kill her. His sister, the only witness, won’t testify. His brother-in-law, the detective, doesn’t trust him. His mistress, the investigating pathologist, won’t help him. They all have their own secrets to protect.

And after all, Henry killed so many others before.

There’s always a price. But if you pay death, then the dead won’t come back to haunt you. Dark Water is a pitch black tale of suicide, torture, murder and revenge as an artist returns to produce his greatest work out of those closest to him.


CanaryCANARY by Duane Swierczynski (one of my most anticipated reads of 2015 - can't wait to delve into it)

It's dangerous enough when an ordinary college girl turns confidential informant. Even more dangerous when she's smarter than the killer, kingpins, and cops who control her.

Honors student Sarie Holland is busted by the local police while doing a favor for her boyfriend. Unwilling to betray him but desperate to avoid destroying her future, Sarie has no choice but to become a "CI"--a confidential informant.

Philly narcotics cop Ben Wildey is hungry for a career-making bust. The detective thinks he's found the key in Sarie: her boyfriend scores from a mid-level dealer with alleged ties to the major drug gangs.

Sarie turns out to be the perfect CI: a quick study with a shockingly keen understanding of the criminal mind. But Wildey, desperate for results, pushes too hard and inadvertently sends the nineteen-year-old into a death trap, leaving Sarie hunted by crooked cops and killers alike with nothing to save her--except what she's learned during her harrowing weeks as an informant.

Which is bad news for the police and the underworld. Because when it comes to payback, CI #1373 turns out to be a very quick study.


The Dramatist (Jack Taylor, #4)THE DRAMATIST by Ken Bruen (my re-read of the Jack Taylor continues with book 4 in the series - this was my favorite on first read, looking forward to seeing if it still is)

Seems impossible, but Jack Taylor is sober---off booze, pills, powder, and nearly off cigarettes, too. The main reason he's been able to keep clean: his dealer's in jail, which leaves Jack without a source. When that dealer calls him to Dublin and asks a favor in the soiled, sordid visiting room of Mountjoy Prison, Jack wants to tell him to take a flying leap. But he doesn't, can't, because the dealer's sister is dead, and the guards have called it "death by misadventure."
 
The dealer knows that can't be true and begs Jack to have a look, check around, see what he can find out. It's exactly what Jack does, with varying levels of success, to make a living. But he's reluctant, maybe because of who's asking or maybe because of the bad feeling growing in his gut.
 
Never one to give in to bad feelings or common sense, Jack agrees to the favor, though he can't possibly know the shocking, deadly consequences he has set in motion. But he and everyone he holds dear will find out soon, sooner than anyone knows, in the lean and lethal fourth entry in Ken Bruen's award-winning Jack Taylor series

Review: AURORA: CENTRALIS by Amanda Bridgeman

Aurora: Centralis (Aurora 4)Could the UNF have a legitimate need for an army of jumbo soldiers?  If so, something big must be on the horizon, something that is sure to change the landscape of the Aurora series...

The fourth installment in the Aurora series provides glimpses into the far reaching plots that expand and threaten this unique universe that author Amanda Bridgeman has so deftly crafted over four books. Yet, despite these tantalizing teases, it's the heartache and uncertainty surrounding the Aurora's members that is this books driving force. 

Corporal Welles is carrying Jumbo twins. A pregnancy that has far reaching implications for the crew of the Aurora and the broader UNF. Impregnated by the brilliantly corrupted scientist Sharley whilst unconscious, this experiment in growing jumbos from the womb could lead to the creation of a generation of super soldiers.

Now safe and under NOK 4 level security Welles and her immediate family may not be easily accessible to Sharley and his crew of jumbos but she and those she cares for the most can never truly be safe - until Sharley is out of the picture, permanently.

As I've touched upon in my previous reviews of the first three books in the Aurora series, these books are character centric science fiction focusing on the human aspect of space travel and how those not so clear but ever present dangers affect them, and CENTRALIS is no different. This time round the character dynamic is heightened by the impending arrival of Welles' twins - of which there are two fathers, thanks to Sharley's mad methods, both close allies and friends of Welles.

While CENTRALIS isn't all about action and theatrics with much of the content coming in the crews 'downtime' or what passes for downtime in the UNF, the action is brutally efficient when it hits, and oh does it. 

Fans of the Aurora series will no doubt enjoy CENTRALIS - form me, it was the glimpse into the future which provided a real highlight and sense of purpose to the jumbo experiment. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Review: THE PORT FAIRY MURDERS by Robert Gott

The Port Fairy MurdersA pairing of double murders, a vengeful killer on the loose who seeks redemption in blood, and a quiet town riddled with secrets and sin are the perfect footings for this 1943's period piece of crime fiction set in Port Fairy, a small coastal town in country Victoria, Australia. 

THE PORT FAIRY MURDERS is the direct sequel to THE HOLIDAY MURDERS, however, as someone who hasn't read the first book, I'm glad to say it didn't hinder the reading experience. Author Robert Gott provides a brief summary of THE HOLIDAY MURDERS prior to delving into his latest installment centered around a small Melbourne Homicide Division which, while not comprehensive, does provide enough context to the characters and past events to form a broad understanding of where things are at and, more importantly, why Detective Joe Sable is the center of a murderers attention. 

The plot comprises two distinct and independent threads which at first don't seem to have any reason to be incorporated in the same book, rest assured, they do converge and culminate in a criminally good fashion. 

What really impressed me about THE PORT FAIRY MURDERS was the whodunit murder mystery that didnt give anything away accompanied by great characters who read 'real'. I enjoy books that keep me guessing and this did just that. I also loved the non conventional ending which hopefully leads to more stories of this interesting band of Melbourne Homicide police set in period of Australian history.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Catching Up: RUNNER by Thomas Perry

RunnerFrom the back of the book:
After a nine-year absence, the fiercely resourceful Native American guide Jane Whitefield is back, in the latest superb thriller by award-winning author Thomas Perry.

For more than a decade, Jane pursued her unusual profession: "I'm a guide . . . I show people how to go from places where somebody is trying to kill them to other places where nobody is." Then she promised her husband she would never work again, and settled in to live a happy, quiet life as Jane McKinnon, the wife of a surgeon in Amherst, New York. But when a bomb goes off in the middle of a hospital fundraiser, Jane finds herself face to face with the cause of the explosion: a young pregnant girl who has been tracked across the country by a team of hired hunters. That night, regardless of what she wants or the vow she's made to her husband, Jane must come back to transform one more victim into a runner. And her quest for safety sets in motion a mission that will be a rescue operation—or a chance for revenge.


My Review:
Despite being the fifth book in the series, RUNNER is new reader friendly, which is something I tend to look for in series books where I'm jumping in post that first installment. Everything that attracted me to RUNNER lent itself towards reading like a standalone and author Thomas Perry didn't fail to disappoint, mixing enough back story with the present-day setting to provide a well rounded account of protagonist Jane McKinnon and her past exploits.

One of the major hurdles I found in reading RUNNER was the overly descriptive nature of the travel sequences to and from destinations, which in some instances took double digit pages without really progressing the story - some editing on this front would've made the story all the more enjoying and free flowing.

Yet, whilst there are moments of padding it didn't make me want to put the book down. I love the multiple angles and switch in perspective from Jane and the runaway to those who were looking to do them both harm. 

A big plus was the natural evolution of the plot from runaway survival suspense to vengeful tale of redemption and action. A nicely done transition that really progressed the story and added another element to an already entertaining read. 

RUNNER works for me as a standalone but I don't think I'll be chasing down other books in the series.