Friday, July 31, 2015

Re-read: COLD CALLER by Jason Starr

Cold CallerFrom the back of the book
Once Bill Moss was a rising VP at a topflight ad agency, but now he works as a "cold caller" at a telemarketing firm in the Times Square area. He's got a bad case of the urban blues. Still, he's good at his work and (he thinks) about to be promoted, when out of the blue he's fired. So Bill snaps . . . and the next thing he knows he has a dead supervisor on his hands and problems no career counselor can help him with.

My Review
COLD CALLER is one of those books that gets better the more times I read it.

The dialogue is crisp, clever, and portrays the mindset of lead character Bill in perfect clarity. From his deluded thoughts of justice to his misguided sense of right and wrong, author Jason Starr manages to make Bill's rationale honest whilst being equally murderous. 

As far as white collar noir goes, COLD CALLER is right up there. The plot is bullet riddled with acts of easy violence that almost feel natural as Bill climbs over bodies and up the corporate ladder. The evolution of a telemarketer to serial killer is executed with a coldly calculated sharpness few authors could muster. 

COLD CALLER is a great book and tailor made for readers who crave good dialogue and clever plotting. I'll definitely be reading it again at some stage down the track. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Short Review: GUILT BY ASSOCIATION by Marcia Clark

Guilt by Association (Rachel Knight #1)From the back of the book
Los Angeles D.A. Rachel Knight is a tenacious, wise-cracking, and fiercely intelligent prosecutor in the city's most elite division. When her colleague, Jake, is found dead at a grisly crime scene, Rachel is shaken to the core. She must take over his toughest case: the assault of a young woman from a prominent family.

But she can't stop herself from digging deeper into Jake's death, a decision that exposes a world of power and violence and will have her risking her reputation and her life to find the truth.

My Review
There are two core plot threads to GUILT BY ASSOCIATION; the murder of DA Rachel Knight's colleague Jake - initially staged as a murder-suicide, and the rape of a young woman who's doctor father has strong political ties. Jake was involved in the rape case which was reassigned to Knight following his death which links the two threads.  

Whilst not being a bad book, I found GUILT BY ASSOCIATION to be an average read. I didn't connect with any of the characters and found the mundane day-to-day actives depicting Rachel getting dressed, eating lunch/dinner, and drinking at the hotel bar distracting and little more than filler content. The street slang dialogue was also a cause for annoyance with a 'BG' (baby gangster) heavily involved in proceedings. As for the crime aspect, the cases themselves resolved all too convenient with the ending feeling rushed despite some enjoyable passages. Not one I'd recommend but I can see how it would be appealing to more casual readers. 

Verdict - there are better mainstream crime reads out there. 

Monday, July 27, 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.

I recovered my reading mojo last week and was able to finish three books - the first time that has happened in the past couple of months! Click on the links below to read the reviews:

DESOLATION GAME by Greg McLean

THIEVES FALL OUT by Gore Vidal

ALL THE LITTLE PIECES by Jillian Hoffman

This week I'm reading GUILT BY ASSOCIATION by Marcia Clark 

Guilt by Association (Rachel Knight #1)

Los Angeles D.A. Rachel Knight is a tenacious, wise-cracking, and fiercely intelligent prosecutor in the city's most elite division. When her colleague, Jake, is found dead at a grisly crime scene, Rachel is shaken to the core. She must take over his toughest case: the assault of a young woman from a prominent family.

But she can't stop herself from digging deeper into Jake's death, a decision that exposes a world of power and violence and will have her risking her reputation--and her life--to find the truth.

With her tremendous expertise in the nuances of L.A. courts and crime, and with a vibrant ensemble cast of characters, Marcia Clark combines intimate detail, riotous humor, and visceral action in a debut thriller that marks the launch of a major new figure on the crime-writing scene. 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Review: ALL THE LITTLE PIECES by Jillian Hoffman

All the Little PiecesVery rarely do I read mainstream crime fiction that I simply don't want to end. ALL THE LITTLE PIECES by Jillian Hoffman is one such rarity. 

Faith Saunders is a mother and wife, trying to put the shattered pieces of her life together following her husbands infidelity and the troubles the couple is having with their young daughter Maggie - both at school and home, when all sense of normalcy is destroyed by a chance encounter with a pair of serial killers and a victim who managed to escape. 

Escape, only to find a locked car door and a reluctant Faith determined to keep the outside night terrors at bay from her semi drunk self and sleeping daughter in the back seat of their parked car. The middle of the night small town stop off to rest her head following a heated argument with her sister wasn't meant to be the thing that would threaten everything she'd ever known - that was meant to be done with, the cheating husband outed, the broken marriage sticky-tapped together. This one event, the pleading in the young woman's eyes, the harshness of the man who snatched her away - the fear of repercussion and endangerment too much to bare. Two weeks later her actions are out in the open for all to judge, and for the killers to remedy their mistake of letting a witness live. Of letting two witnesses live.

ALL THE LITTLE PIECES switches gears from family drama to police procedural to family drama and back again without missing a beat. The murder police and the Saunders family don't battle for page time with each character type complimentary to the plot. This book has a real human feel to it which adds layers of depth and emotional characterization that accurately portrays three sides of a criminal investigation; the suspected, the witness, and the law, not to mention victims and public backlash Faith experiences. The story just feels well-rounded and real. 

I couldn't help but think ALL THE LITTLE PIECES is beginning of a new series - fingers crossed on that one. 

ALL THE LITTLE PIECES was published this month by Harper Collins and is a book I strongly recommend for readers of crime fiction and legal dramas. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Review: THIEVES FALL OUT by Gore Vidal

Thieves Fall OutThink adventure, grifters, and pulp amid a backdrop of post WWII era Egypt where chivalry and romance abound influenced by thievery and black-market prosperity and you'll get a somewhat cracked and faded picture of the atmospheric piece of fiction author Gore Vidal has craftily created. 

THIEVES FALL OUT follows Peter, a former army lieutenant who tried his hand at oil prospecting in America before heading to Egypt where he's approached by a duo to smuggle goods out of the country. Always on the take and out for easy money, Peter quickly agrees and in no time finds himself thrust into a peculiar and highly mysterious arrangement between an odd couple, an entertainer, and a country in turmoil. 

I had a great time reading THIEVES FALL OUT. Not only did the book cater to my pulpier reading tastes but the story was in constant motion; the character circle's typecast ever changing with each turn of chapter and proceeding event. Not knowing who the good guys are from the bad (though they're all bad to some extent) makes for interesting reading. 

THIEVES FALL OUT is another quality read from Hardcase Crime. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Review: DESOLATION GAME by Greg McLean

Desolation Game (Wolf Creek, #2)The second of the Wolf Creek prequel novels continues to expand upon the murderous figure that is Mick Taylor and his blood letting escapades in the Australian outback. DESOLATION GAME takes readers to Mick's time in 'Nam as he hones his kill skills, steadily developing an unrivaled prowess in the art of murder which provide the foundation for the 1968-era blood bath DESOLATION GAME focuses on. 

When a tour group fall in Micks's sights, there was never going to be a happy ending. Surrounded by the nothingness of the harsh outback and reliant upon the kindness of strangers, the tour group find themselves at Mick's mercy when their van succumbs to mechanical problems. From there author Greg McLean crafts a deadly game of cat and mouse as, one by one, the group meet their death. 

DESOLATION GAME is not for the faint of heart. It's bloody, violent and blends elements of R-rated thriller with survival horror. Mick is perhaps the most terrifying bad guy I've read or seen on the silver screen. His laid-back Aussie accent and unassuming facade make him that much more menacing, especially when he's lost to the voices inside his head and dancing around wearing human hide. 

I'm not sure if there are plans for anymore prequel novels continuing the Wolf Creek story but I do have my fingers crossed for more. There is a whole world of pain out there waiting for Mick to explore and exploit. Highly recommended. 

Monday, July 20, 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.

Below is my read for the week: 


Desolation Game (Wolf Creek, #2)DESOLATION GAME by Greg McLean (the second Wolf Creek prequel novel)

Mick's learning, and his schoolroom is a war

When sharpshooter and killer Mick Taylor searches for a place to keep a low profile, he finds somewhere where his peculiar talents are appreciated: a war. And in Vietnam, an out-of-control sergeant takes the amateur murderer and turns him into a pro.

Back home, Mick makes use of the sick lessons the army taught him, when hapless tour operators bring a Kombi-load of sightseers out his way into the Western Australian desert. Two suspicious flat tyres deliver an engaged Japanese couple, a father and son, a US army vet and his girlfriend, and a couple of cute girls to Mick's lair. Middle of nowhere, population one. The group finds themselves in hell, as Mick makes sure their once-in-a-lifetime tour stays that way. And though one of the drivers escapes and goes for help, Mick sees no reason to stop the killing spree.

In the second Wolf Creek prequel novel, the cult film's writer/director Greg Mclean and horror writer Brett McBean get to the heart of Australian horror's most terrifying psycho killer. Is Mick Taylor possessed by some dark power in the landscape itself? Something ancient? Does the Red Centre demand blood?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Short Review: NOBODY MOVE by Denis Johnson

Nobody Move
From the back of the book
Jimmy Luntz owes money to a man called Juarez. Trouble is, Juarez isn't the most patient of men. And when he gets bored of waiting, he sends someone round to collect. Luntz doesn't actually plan to shoot the guy, but the way he sees it, it's shoot or be shot. Either way, though, Luntz is out of his league, and he knows it: nobody messes with Juarez - or, at least, nobody messes with Juarez and lives to tell the tale. 

My review
A tightly constructed noir that relies almost exclusively on dialogue to tell the story, luckily the method doesn't hinder the atmosphere providing just enough description to cater to the readers imagination. It also helps that author Denis Johnson is gifted at delivering smooth and crisp dialogue not dissimilar to crime fiction grand-master Elmore Leonard. 


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Review: BONES NEVER LIE by Kathy Reichs

19381631It's been a long time since I read Temperance Brennan, yet, what makes this series so ever-green is the fact that a reader can step away for a number of years and pick up enough back story within the current read to enjoy the present day setting without feeling lost.

BONES NEVER LIES is a good example of not trapping readers into having read every preceding volume. Despite the plot revolving around a spate of murders, both from the cold case files and fresh victims matching the modus operandi of a reappearing murderer in Anique Pomerleau, I never felt like I wasn't understanding of the importance of the past and the impact present day events. Being more familiar with Pomerleau would have made the book all the more enjoyable so I would urge readers to at least track down some of the earlier books though it's not essential. 

Mainstream crime fiction can at times feel stale and unfortunately there is a little of that here - though it's not to do with the investigation as Brennan and co in the cold case team try to track a killer, it's more to do with the side plot threads. Brennan is a well established character who is always busy bouncing from one drama to the next, be it professionally or personally - it's the personal elements that make the book drag for me, however, I can see how other readers may enjoy the extra padding to the character. 

The plot itself is one that has plenty of twists and turns and Kathy Reichs really made me think about the murders and who was responsible - putting doubt in my mind when there really should have been none. I did experience some confusion at the volume of cold cases and the associated leads Brennan and co followed-up on. Keeping tabs on which acquaintance, workmate, family member, or corresponding police office involved in an initial investigation proved difficult at times.

BONES NEVER LIE is an average read that will appeal more to the die-hard fans over the occasional Kathy Reichs reader. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Bookish Thoughts: On the passing of Tom Piccirilli

8527983I woke this morning and checked my twitter feed to discover that one of my favorite noir and horror authors Tom Piccirilli had passed away. I never knew him and only conversed with him briefly via social media usually while gushing over his latest work yet the news has deeply moved me.

Early in my reading journey when I was thirsty for hard edged crime fiction that offered more spice than the mainstream I stumbled upon THE COLD SPOT, this along with noir novels by Victor Gischler,  Sean Doolittle, Charlie Huston, Max Allan Collins and Duane Swierczynski helped form the reader that I am today.

I been fortunate enough to read many, though not all, of Tom Piccirilli's books with each standing out for different reasons be it the characterization, plot, or just pure enjoyment of getting lost in the story. 

The signed limited print edition of THE LAST DEEP BREATH, one of the more cherished books in my personal library is now that much more so. This is a story I keep going back to and had hoped Tom Piccirilli would revisit the characters in either a prequel or sequel at some stage.

The Last Deep Breath follows Grey, a drifter on the search for his foster sister, who showed up for the first time in ten years with a knife in her side, then vanished without a trace.
Grey winds up in Los Angeles dealing with manipulative actresses and scummy agents, hoping to find some clue as to what happened to her after she dropped out of a porn career he didn't know about.

The blurb oozes noir and by the end of the book the reader is lathered in the stuff. It's a great read and a testament to the quality I'd come to expect book in book out from Tom Piccirilli.

2187560As for THE COLD SPOT, the noir styling is omnipresent from the get go. Chase is a great character who grows over the two books in the Cold series (THE COLD SPOT, THE COLDEST MILE).

Chase was raised as a getaway driver by his grandfather, Jonah, a con man feared by even the hardened career criminals who make up his crew. But when Jonah crosses the line and murders one of his own, Chase goes solo, stealing cars and pulling scores across the country….And then he meets Lila, a strong-willed deputy sheriff with a beguiling smile who shows him what love can be. Chase is on the straight and narrow for the first time in his life—until tragedy hits, and he must reenter the dark world of grifters and crooks. Now Chase is out for revenge—and he’ll have to turn to the one man he hates most in the world. Only Jonah can teach Chase how to become a stone-cold killer. But even as the two men work together, Chase knows that their unresolved past will eventually lead them to a showdown of their own.

The Last Whisper in the DarkYou may read some of my reviews below:





Monday, July 13, 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.

Below is my read for the week: 


19381631BONES NEVER LIE by Kathy Reichs (I recently received an arc from the publisher for SPEAKING IN BONES, the book that follows BONES NEVER LIE, hence, I bumped this one up the tbr. It's been many years since I read a Kathy Reichs book and it's been nice getting familiar with Tempe Brennan again)

Unexpectedly called in to the Charlotte PD’s Cold Case Unit, Dr. Temperance Brennan wonders why she’s been asked to meet with a homicide cop who’s a long way from his own jurisdiction. The shocking answer: Two child murders, separated by thousands of miles, have one thing in common—the killer. Years ago, Anique Pomerleau kidnapped and murdered a string of girls in Canada, then narrowly eluded capture. It was a devastating defeat for her pursuers, Brennan and police detective Andrew Ryan. Now, as if summoned from their nightmares, Pomerleau has resurfaced in the United States, linked to victims in Vermont and North Carolina. When another child is snatched, the reign of terror promises to continue—unless Brennan can rise to the challenge and make good on her second chance to stop a psychopath.
 
But Brennan will have to draw her bitter ex-partner out of exile, keep the local police and feds from one another’s throats, and face more than just her own demons as she stalks the deadliest of predators into the darkest depths of madness.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Returning to the scene of the crime: ALONE by Lisa Gardner

Alone (Detective D.D. Warren, #1)Sometimes I get the urge to read something that I KNOW is going to be great, a book that I know will spark my reading journey into a change of genre (I've been reading more surreal fiction lately) and lead to more like it. Switching to crime fiction I decided to delve back into the world of mainstream crime fiction with ALONE by Lisa Gardner.

Catherine is a sexy, smart and manipulative woman who was once the victim of a pedophile. Held captive in a box and forced to obey the deranged individual for 28 days has left her guarded and closed off from the world since she was 12 years old. Now  she finds herself the victim in an abusive marriage. Her husband isn't faithful and her body is used as a punching bag. Adding to this trauma is Catherine's young son Nathan, who has an unknown illness that is affecting his ability to thrive. For a long time there was no light at the end of the tunnel - until a bullet from a police sniper killed her husband.

ALONE piles layer upon layer upon layer of twists and turns making it impossible to know what's fact and what's fiction - the truth a mere suggestion. Doubts arise over Catherine's character regarding the treatment of her son while her own father in-law seems to have a very personal vendetta against her, then there is Bobby, the sniper and his prior knowledge of Catherine; Lisa Gardner has crafted a beautiful web of deceit and distraction.

ALONE is a fast paced crime romp that is thrilling, engaging and utterly all consuming. Even though I've read it twice the impact of the story doesn't dimmer.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Review: THE DEATH DEFYING DOCTOR MIRAGE by Jen Van Meter

The Death-Defying Doctor MirageFrom the back of the book
Death was just the beginning... Doctor Mirage talks to the dead... but the only spirit Shan Fong can't find is that of her late husband, Hwen. Instead, America's favorite semi-retired paranormal investigator is haunted and raw, using her gift to solve homicides and bring peace to the recently bereaved. But when a big-time occultist with a classified military past hires her for a special job, Shan discovers a lead that might close the greatest mystery she's ever tackled - how to get Hwen back! Now, Doctor Mirage must enter the undiscovered country and cross all the realms of the underworld if she has any hope of rescuing the man she loves... or be forever lost beyond the earthly plane. 

My Review
First off let me say that art in this book is fantastic! Robert De La Torre does a great job at penciling a unique and moody environment for the characters to wade through. Danger lurks around every corner and every corner is different with its own distinct sense of character and feel. Author Jen Van Meter's story is a mix of romance, tragedy, supernatural superhero-ism, and horror but most of all, it's paranormal medium Shan Fong's self contained story of personal growth that makes DOCTOR MIRAGE such an interesting book to read. 

Comic story arcs tend to lend themselves to 4 issue blocks, this first installment runs 5 with a couple of extras thrown in for context and value. Readers new to the Valiant Comics Universe will get a glimpse of Shan Fong's first appearance in Shadowman #5 while also being treated with a map of environs Shan travels throughout DOCTOR MIRAGE. 

The plot itself is simple yet creates so many possible sub plot threads to be explored in the future which aren't limited to a DOCTOR MIRAGE series. Teases and plot threads are to be expected in the comic book medium and here they are executed very well; new interesting characters within a dynamic place setting that screams horror. 

There was so much to like about this book that I won't list it all as to avoid spoilers. However, DOCTOR MIRAGE will return in December 2015 for another mini series from Valiant. Given Shan and co have had some cameos in other Valiant titles recently I'm interested to see where the story Jen Van Meter writes takes the blue-haired investigator. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Review: DEAD OF NIGHT by Jonathan Maberry

Dead of NightI've read a lot of zombie books but none quite like Jonathan Maberry's DEAD OF NIGHT. Rather than zeroing in on the stock standard survival horror aspects typically associated with zombie books, Maberry crafts a tale full of emotion, character and sass.

Sass? Yep. The protagonist, local beat cop Dez Fox is an all American action hero who, despite her self destructive nature, kicks a bunch of zombie and bad guy ass. I particularly liked the fact that her past formed the person she is during the man-made outbreak and that her on-again-off-again relationship with a local reporter was paramount to proceedings. This clever use of character as a side plot made reading DEAD OF NIGHT that much more real.

As with any zombie book there is going to be a fair amount of gore and violent death and this book is no exception. That said, what put DEAD OF NIGHT a subtle notch above the rest was the use of the vulnerable as a last stand against certain extension at the hands of both the infected and the military brought in to contain the spread.

DEAD OF NIGHT is a great addition to the zombie sub horror genre.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Review: MICRO by Michael Crichton

MicroMICRO is a super smart, super entertaining book that showcases the authors breadth of knowledge and knack for solid story telling in the fields of science and fiction respectively.

Nano technology is put to the extreme in MICRO as a billion dollar company looking to profit off war makes weapons that are undetectable and equally as difficult to stop. The use of miniature robotics combined with the distinctly pulp sci-fi theme of shrinking people and equipment makes for limitless storytelling easily adaptable across genres.

In this instance MICRO adopts a blend of action and horror as the reader follows a band of college students through the micro world (a small section of controlled forest) where they face dangers not commonly seen by the normal sized human.

The authors went to great lengths to make MICRO a multifaceted story about character, plot, and the infusion of genres to formulate a well balanced and entertaining piece of fiction that could, on the surface level, turn to reality one day... (though I hope not!).  

Friday, July 3, 2015

Monthly Reader Statistics: JUNE 2015


This series of blog posts is as the title suggests; monthly statistics for the latest completed month with a year to date summary of my reading. I actually look at my reader stats every so often, more out of curiosity as opposed to using them to achieve a goal. I like to know how many of the books I've read are for review verses how many I have read just 'cos (those I purchased or borrowed) or the difference between physical books and kindle ebooks. As I don't tend to make a conscious decision to read an ebook verses a physical book or read a book given to me for review verses something from my tbr, it's just what attracts me at the time - I thought these statistics would prove a useful 'nice-to-know' and an interesting footnote in my 2015 reading journey. 

Monthly Reads (books completed reading): 5

Re-reads: 0
Review books: 1
Audio books: 0
*Just 'cos reads: 4
Kindle: 0
2015 published: 1


Year To Date Reads: 68

Re-reads: 8
Review books: 27
Audio books: 3
*Just ‘cos reads: 29
Kindle: 18
2015 published: 20

- - - - -
*doesn't include re-reads/audio
- - - - - 

Best Reads of June:


Micro  After I'm Gone

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Review: THE SILENCE by Tim Lebbon

The SilenceTHE SILENCE is an atmospheric horror that chronicles the early stages of an extension level event and one family's struggle to survive as humanity falls apart around them.

When explorers unearth a remote cave structure which had never seen the light of day they inadvertently threaten mankind's existence. Monsters lay in wait, blind bat like creatures that hunt by sound and eat anything that bleeds. The beginning of the end is live streamed around the world for all to see. Panic ensues and confusion abounds as we learn who really are the monsters; the pray or predator.

There was a lot to like about THE SILENCE with the modern day reliance on social media a key mechanism for communicating the world wide spread of terror. The Hushed were also a great inclusion; a scary and unpredictable group of people taking silence to the extreme by cutting out their own tongues and targeting the deaf to join their flock to teach them sign language. Made even more menacing by their willingness to use violence as an incentive to achieve their goal.

Recommended for fans of traditional and survival horror.