Fiction – April 2020

Despite the cover quotes, I didn’t like this. The central character did not interest me. Neither did the overlong passages of text where nothing happened other than the word count going up. In my opinion, over hyped and under-edited. First miss from this author.

Novella in the typical K. J. Parker style: a first person dialog from someone whose narrative – telling of his experiences as an exorcist – may not be the whole truth, in a fantasy world that reflects all of humanity’s failings. Easy to read, entertaining, and fun.

A youngster is kidnapped but escapes. The police are sure the victim knows who committed the crime, but the youngster is refusing to name anyone. Why? Though the writing is often a bit clunky, this is a great story, breathlessly told, and highly enjoyable.

Who is it who slaughtered the young man in the forest? And why? D.I. Helen Grace to the rescue! This is decent enough crime novel that doesn’t ever rise above that level. Not bad, but not the best.

Now you’re talking! Caleb Zelic, profoundly deaf, is an investigator who gets himself too deeply involved in a case involving the brutal murder of a friend. Circumstances force Caleb back to his home town of Resurrection Bay, meeting up with his ex-wife and her extended family. But this is no refuge. A taut tale that sharply exposes the racism the aboriginal community in Australia endures, as well as the outright injustices. Caleb is a great character, a detective with more than one challenge in his life. way. You do not want to miss this, the first in a well received series.

I’ll be brief: number two in the Caleb Zelic series. You want to read this.

Yes, that True Grit, the one that was made into a John Wayne film. It’s the tale of Mattie Ross, a fourteen year old girl of unusual maturity and focus, seeking justice for the slaying of her father. Rooster Coburn, ex-Confederate cavalryman, is no one dimensional hero or baddie, but he is the one recruited to do the job. The book is wider in its range than the film, and has many more comical moments. I get the impression reading this wonderful story that Charles Portis would have made an excellent dinner guest.

Whatever this was trying to be – psychological drama, horror, or fantasy – it didn’t work. It bored me to bits. Avoid.

This is the first Nils Shapiro story which I read out of sync, having already finished Broken Ice back in August 2019. Shapiro is a private detective, in this case investigating the death of a divorcee at the suggestion of a former police colleague. In addition to the challenges faced there, such as the involvement of the FBI (who want Shapiro well away) our hero is trying to get over his ex-wife and facing struggles in his private life. While a bit raw in places, overall this was pretty good. The character and backdrop are well done, and the dialog has its moments.

This is a Cold War spy novel, featuring grizzled espionage expert Harry Mackintosh in an operation that goes badly wrong. Seeking his revenge, Mackintosh recruits safe cracker Jimmy Walker. You can see where this is going. On the plus side, the story races along and the tension is well maintained. There are twists and turns and some veritable stretching of plausibility in some corners of the plot. On the down side, the writing is workmanlike rather than elegant. And there are chunks of cliche punctuating the portrayal of the characters. Overall, OK, but nothing more.

Fiction – January 2020

You can tell I’ve been on holiday. There’s a lot of reading here. (Probably some of these belong with December’s reading, but at least I remembered to review them.)

Part of my Connelly reread. This one involves a dead body found in the trunk of a car. Bosch sorts it out, but not without some more danger, some twists, and the usual inter office politics. Great stuff.

Continue reading

The Trespasser – Tana French

This was an impulse buy from the local Steimatzky’s (bookstore) that turned out to be a surprisingly good read.

Detective Antoinette Conway is part of the Dublin Murder Squad, and she hates it. Primarily, she’s being harassed by some – if not most – of her colleagues. Think college hazing with a bit more spite. The poor girl is at war in her daily work, and it’s a wonder she continues to stick it out.

Then, she is assigned a new case that seems like it’s open and shut, and so should take away some of the tension. A young girl is found dead in her home, the table set for a dinner for two. It has to be the boyfriend. But what are these nagging suspicions Antoinette has, and where does she recognize the deceased from?

The book is dark and desperate in places because that’s the spot that the heroine occupies, as she tries to work out her angst and find a way out of the troubles. Inevitably, she is under pressure to wrap up the case quickly. It doesn’t help she appears to be being stalked, and she is not sure if she can trust her partner.

About half way through, I would have said the only material weakness in the book is that the central character is the only one with real depth. But the second half piled up more on other characters, to the extent there was quite a crowd of them at the end.

The plot is straightforward enough with no real depth, but the atmosphere and the writing is splendid. The tension is real, and the world is all too believable.

I was less than impressed to find this is part of a series – and not the first. I plan on starting again at the beginning. (I do wish publishers would make this more explicit on the cover.)

Good crime fiction, with a spicy, clever female lead character. What’s not to like?