Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Fiend in Human - John MacLachlan Gray

I'm writing a quick entry to get myself caught up.  I've been reading, but not very good about blogging.  I read The Fiend in Human by John MacLachlan Gray on the recommendation of William Gibson, one of my favorite writers.

This novel is a weird mashup of crime novel, journalism mystery and love story set in Victorian London.  It has that great grinding quality to it, which makes for a great crime novel.  The entire story is told from the perspective of Edmund Whitty, a journalist for The Falcon, a London newspaper.

A highly recommended mashup of journalism, crime and historical fiction.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Damage Done - Hilary Davidson

I first got word of Hilary Davidson through twitter, where she posts frequently.  I knew that she had written a novel, but there are so many authors on twitter, it is hard to read everyone's work.  Then Bouchercon 2011 hit, and she won the Anthony Award for Best First Novel so I had to read it.

It is nice to read new authors every once in a while, which most recently for me include Dana Haynes and Patrick Lee.  The great thing for me about new writers is the new voice they provide to an established genre.  In this novel, the main character is a female, which is less usual in a crime novel.  Even more unusual, is that she is not a private eye, detective, but a travel journalist.  She then becomes a makeshift  detective when she is called from Spain to come back to New York City to identify her sister's body which has been found in the tub of her apartment.

I'm not going to give anything away, but there are a lot of twists in this novel that aren't really expected, which do not seem contrived at all.  Not to mention the ending, which is totally unexpected!

I'm currently reading Reamde by Neal Stephenson.  It's 1000 pages, and I'm about 1/3 done.  I think I'm still one or two books behind, so I'll try to get caught up.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Affair - Lee Child

I'm a little behind on the Vintage Crime Blog, so I'm going to write a few short reviews at a rapid pace. I think I've read The Affair by Lee Child, The Damage Done by Hilary Davidson, and The Fiend in Human by John MacLachlan Gray in the last month or so, and neglected to write them up. The baby has been waking up three times every night, and just zapping everyone's energy here at home.

The Affair is the 16th Jack Reacher book. Yes, I've read them all (the first 12 or 13 in a few months... I was obsessed!) This is a classic Reacher novel, in terms of how he acts, and the events that take place. This novel actually involves Reacher's last case before he leaves the military and makes several vague references to the events that take place in Killing Floor. The thing I like about the Reacher flashback novels is how Reacher knows how to play the Army system for everything it is worth. He can use his position as a Military Policeman to give orders to superiors, etc.

The novel revolves around a murder that takes place outside a rural base in the south. Reacher gets sent down there to observe the situation undercover and make sure that his uniformed counterpart doesn't miss anything. He gets made right away, but continues to work the case on the down low. Eventually, everything turns south, and Reacher does what he does best... take care of business.

The novel is interesting in that it is told as a flashback, knowing the events of September 11th, 2001, and all of the security changes that happen afterwards, even though the story takes place before those events. The end of the novel also takes place first, and the whole thing has a circular feel that is really cool.

Overall, this is a Reacher INSTANT CLASSIC, right up there with Killing Floor, Persuader, and The Enemy.

Go read it!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Indigo Slam - Robert Crais

It's been a while since I've upgraded the vintage crime blog. After reading Infinite Jest, I've been on a crime binge including Indigo Slam, The Damage Done by Hilary Davidson, and The Fiend in Human by John MacLachlan Gray (reviews forthcoming).

This novel finds Elvis Cole semi-adopting a few kids after their father has disappeared. It turns out he is an engraver/printer, and may be involved in some kind of counterfeiting ring. The entire time I was reading this novel, I kind of had in the back of my mind that I had seen this as a movie before. I finally figured out that Rush Hour 2 (2001) had a very similar plot. Don't worry though, this novel was published in 1997!

This novel also explores the possibility of Elvis' love interest (sorry, I forget her name... it's been a few weeks and I took the book back to the library!) moving to LA from Baton Rouge. I won't spoil it, but it leaves the possibility of interesting things happening in future novels.

As usual, Joe Pike plays a minor, but pivotal role in the novel, and it doesn't disappoint. I can't wait to read the Joe Pike novel, but I'm reading all of these in the order they were published, so I have a few more to go.

Up next is The Affair by Lee Child. It's a classic Reacher novel!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace

You may have noticed the Vintage Crime Blog has been out of commission for a while. That's because I have been reading the epic novel Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. It was recommended to me by a friend after he heard I had read Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon.

Infinite Jest is a novel set in a near dystopian future where the US, Canada and Mexico have all become the same nation. The nation is largely run by a power source called annular fission, which requires a large amount of nuclear storage/wasteland. The US devises a plan where they give the northeast to canada, then transform it into the nuclear storage area.

The story revolves around three story lines.

1. Hal Incandeza, a top junior tennis player at the Enfield Tennis Academy, which was founded by his father.

2. Don Gately, a recovering alcoholic and live-in counselor at The Ennet House Drug and Recovery House.

3. Remy Marathe, a secret double/triple agent for Canada trying to secure an artificial heart for his wife who was born anencephalic.

The entire story is loosely related to tracking down the master copy of a video that is so good, it causes the viewer to not do anything except watch the video. Like Gravity's Rainbow, there is an epic journey with multiple digressions that do not relate to the story. It is a great story, which takes itself a litte too seriously, and has some serious digressions into prescription drugs (which are detailed in the 200 pages of footnotes).

If you're looking for a wide spanning novel with some serious literary background, I would recommend this novel. It took me over a month to read, so be prepared!

Up next is an actual vintage crime novel, Indigo Slam (1997) by Robert Crais.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Enemy - Lee Child

In honor of the upcoming Lee Child/Jack Reacher release of The Affair on September 27, 2011 I recently re-read The Enemy by Lee Child. The Affair is a prequel to Killing Floor set six months before the original Reacher novel. I also recently read "Second Son", a short story depicting Reacher as a 13 year old boy (highly recommended for 1.99 on Kindle if you are a Reacher fan).

The Enemy is a prequel novel starring Reacher as a member of a special division of the Army military police. The novel was released in 2004, but starts on New Year's eve 1989 and the first few days of 1990. You really get to see Reacher in his element while he works for the Army. It gives great background to why he thinks what he thinks, and how he works through cases after he leaves the Army. If you're a big Reacher fan, you know some of the novels are written in first person, others in third. This is written in first, so you can get inside Reachers head.

The novel has a great beginning, with a general found naked face down in a sleazy motel across the street from a gentlemen's club. Reacher quickly gets involved in the case, and finds out that the case is much more complicated. For one, the agenda of a top secret meeting in California is missing. All of the general's coworkers say there wasn't an agenda, but everyone in the Army knows any time there's a meeting, there's always an agenda. All of a sudden, the general's wife has been murdered, as well as a Delta force soldier on base. Reacher starts trying to put the pieces together, but he has a new boss who is trying to obstruct him, and even tries to pin some of the crimes on him!

The novel is huge in terms of space. The book starts in Fort Bird, NC, then moves through Paris, Germany, California and South Carolina. You really wonder if Lee Child visited all of these places, because the descriptions are very realistic. In typical Reacher fashion, he has the crime figured out about 80% through the novel, then spends the last 20% getting his ducks in a row for the legal system, and finally exacts his revenge.

There's a lot of coffee talk in this book, which I can appreciate lately since I've been drinking so much coffee. To paraphrase... "The diner had a bottomless cup policy, and I exploited it ruthlessly."

This is a classic Reacher read, right up there with Killing Floor and Persuader. It is highly recommended, especially in light of the upcoming prequel Reacher novel The Affair.

I'm taking a break from crime fiction until the new Reacher comes out. In the meantime, I'll be reading Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. It's an experiment in patience, kind of like my recent reading of Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cloudburst and Simple Simon - Ryne Douglas Pearson

I've been reading a lot lately (travel, etc) but I've been traveling without my laptop, so I'm a bit behind on the Vintage Crime Blog. Books I've read but not blogged include Simple Simon and Cloudburst by Ryne Douglas Pearson and The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler. I'm going to do a brief Ryne Douglas Pearson (@rynedp on twitter!) roundup to cover those two novels.

I had never heard of Ryne Douglas Pearson before a fateful retweet on twitter. I was on vacation with my family and-the in-laws, when I saw one of my twitter peeps RT an offer on Cloudburst for free on the Kindle. I did a quick google of the author, and found out that he was the author of Simple Simon, the novel that served as the basis for Mercury Rising. I actually saw that movie when it first came out. I immediately downloaded Cloudburst and started reading it after I finished up The Hypnotist while on vacation.

The novel has a really fast start. It is pretty much the best start of a novel that I've read since Persuader by Lee Child. A person is killed in Los Angeles in a huge rain of bullets and missiles which starts a chain of events in Greece, Los Angeles, and Libya. The story is told from the perspective of four people primarily. Art Jefferson, a career agent with the FBI, Bud DiContino, newly promoted chief of the NSA, Bart Hendrickson, the pilot of a 747 that gets hijacked, and DONNER, a double agent in Libya.

Once the story is set, the different characters are all moving along different story lines that you soon find out are interconnected. Art has to track down the assasins, the 747 gets hijacked - and mysterious cargo gets loaded onto the plane in Libya. Meanwhile Bud has to manage the whole situation from DC alongside a newly sworn in president.

The story moves along quickly, and the ending is exciting. The military jargon is accurate, but not obtrusive. I like how some old school fighter planes end up getting reactivated during the story as well.

Overall, the story had a great beginning and ending, and left me wanting more, which was nice since at the end of the kindle edition, the publisher kindly included the first few chapters of Simple Simon, the novel that the move Mercury rising was based off of.

Simple Simon is the story of a 16 year old autistic boy who accidentally starts decoding the governments newest multi-billion dollar encryption scheme. The messages that he decrypts leads him to call a phone number, and then things start getting crazy. Long story short, a government agent kills his parents, and he ends up getting taken in by Art Jefferson, the same character that starred in Cloudburst. It turns out that his wife Anne is one of Simon's physicians. They take him into foster care.

Meanwhile, the government agency that has developed this algorithm has decided Simon needs to be eliminated. They also enlist a hacker to make it look like Art Jefferson is a crooked agent. Not only is he being chased by government agents, he is also being chased by Keiko, a sadistic japanese torture artist (this character was actually removed from the film, probably because filming the scenes would be so bloody that they would freak a few people out).

This book has great pacing, and the story is over before you know it, but in a very satisfying way. I would say this book is better than Cloudburst but not by much.

I'm about to start Mercury Rising (the film) in 15 minutes, so that should be fun to watch and compare to the novel. I still need to write a quick review of The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Quicksilver - Neal Stephenson

Ok, this is not crime related, so I am just making a post more as a log rather than a review. Quicksilver is a sci-fi/historical drama that is the first part of The Baroque Cycle, a group of 8 novels gathered into 3 books.

The central figure is Dr. Daniel Waterhouse, a bystander to Isaac Newton and various other natural philosophers. The story also involves Jack Shaftoe, a vagabond and Eliza, Countess de la Zeur, a freed slave that ends up shaping monetary policy throughout Europe.

Overall, the story is sprawling in a Thomas Pynchon sort of way, but much more readable. A working knowledge of Eurpean history, calculus and physics will probably enhance the experience.

Up next is The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler. I've alread read it, but just need a little time to catch up. I'm currently reading Cloudburst by Ryne Douglas Pearson.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Graphic Novel Extravaganza – Superman: Red Son and Skull Kickers

I’ve been trying to read graphic novels intermittently over the last year to broaden my horizons. It is pretty well documented on my blog what I’ve been reading, but each one I’ve been reading has gotten a little easier. It took me two reads to really understand Watchmen, and I probably need to reread Justice vols. 1-3 to really understand them.

The most recent graphic novels I have read are quite different. The first is Superman: Red Son (Mark Millar, Dave Johnson, Kilian Plunkett, Andrew Robinson, Walden Wong), which was recommended to me at the local comic book store. The premise is that Superman landed as a boy in the Soviet Union instead of the United States of America. He then becomes a champion of communism and converts pretty much the whole world to communism except the USA. Lex Luthor is kind of the protagonist, who spends his whole life trying to come up with a way to defeat Superman for the United States. The whole thing is like a bizarre twist on the superman franchise, but it is extremely well done and makes an interesting read. My limited knowledge of the DC universe was helpful, but it is far from exhaustive, so I think anyone could read it.

The second comic (in a row) that I have read is Skull Kickers, which was created by Jim Zubkavich aka Jim Zub. It is the story of two unnamed adventurers in a Dungeons and Dragons type universe. They take a contract to find a corpse of a noble, and run into a few problems along the way. The best part of the story is the interplay of the two main characters, one guy who is huge and carries a gun, and the other who is a dwarf and carries an axe. The artwork and coloring is top notch, and I don’t know how they do it, but there is a cool iridescent effect that looks like it shouldn’t be possible on regular paper.

I’m going to be out of commission for a while since I am re-reading Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver, a 900 page semi-historical fiction novel that is part of a 3 volume group of novels called the Baroque Cycle. I’m pretty excited for the re-read.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Chasing Filthy Lucre – Jarrett Rush

First off, I'm going to admit I don't remember all of the details of this novella, because Joseph Finder's novel came out the day after I read this one, and I couldn't keep myself from reading it!

I found out about this novella via a friend on twitter. It is another $0.99 Amazon special. At about 20,000 words, this is a novella you can easily read in a day.

This novella has a great start in an underground boxing situation. At first you think this is going to be a Fight Club type novel, but the next thing you know the main character is plugging a cable into his arm in cyberpunk post apocalyptic fashion. Apparently in this future time line, soldiers were implanted with a cybernetic type device so they could download tactical information while they sleep. As time went on, people found ways to increase the flow of information, which allows them to use the Internet like a kind of drug.

The main character is a kind of enforcer/transporter who makes sure that couriers (whose heads are packed with secret information) make it to their destination. One of his couriers dies, and he finds himself in the middle of an idealogical war, and decides to execute the plans that were stored in the courier's head.

This is a pretty short read, but it lays a great foundation for a future full length novel or perhaps a series of novels. This has some pretty strong similarities to Johnny Mnemonic, so if you like that, you will probably like this!

Up next, Superman: Red Son.

Buried Secrets – Joseph Finder

A colleague first introduced me to Nick Heller shortly after the release of Vanished. I think it was one of the first books I purchased on the kindle. I’ve actually read it twice, and my wife has read it as well. Shortly after getting into the book scene on twitter, I found out that Joseph Finder is actually pretty active on twitter. Shortly after following him, I found out about Buried Secrets.

This novel follows Nick Heller after he has moved to Boston (Finder’s home town) to start up his own security agency. Business is a little slow, as Nick is pretty selective about his clients. It turns out that the daughter of a family friend has been kidnapped and is being held hostage. Unfortunately, the girl’s family isn’t telling Nick everything he knows about his daughter. Fortunately, for the reader, we get to meet Nick’s professional colleagues as he tracks down the girls.

As you know, I am anti-spoiler, but it has been pretty well publicized that the girl is being held hostage in a coffin buried underground. Apparently Joseph Finder actually was locked into a coffin to see what it felt like. The research experience worked, because his initial description of being locked in the coffin is seriously anxiety inducing. Other than that, Joseph Finder has a pretty interesting choice of weapon for the villain, the WASP knife, a knife that injects air forcefully into the victim after they have been stabbed. It makes for a few gruesome scenes.

One of the strongest points of this novel is the pacing. This book just never stops! I actually read the book in one day, while essentially locked in a room with no windows (it’s a work thing that I have to do about once a month). Especially freaky was when the power went out for five minutes and I was stuck in the dark, not really knowing where the door was! I also know the ladies are pretty big fans of Nick Heller in general, and there is a love story/subplot in the novel that will keep most people satisfied.

I am classifying this as a MUST READ for the summer. If you haven’t read VANISHED by Joseph Finder, I would recommend reading it first, although I would not consider it a requisite.

I am currently reading Superman: Red Son, and have also read a novella called Chasing Filthy Lucre. They are both pretty short, so I’m not sure if I will make two posts or not.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Kingdom Come - Mark Waid, Alex Ross, Todd Klein

I've tried to read a graphic novel a month, but have fallen behind. They are actually kind of hard to read, because there is so much on the page visually, but you have to use your imagination a little bit more since there aren't many words. It took me a while to get used to that!

This graphic novel was actually easy to read. The story is compelling, and moves quickly. This book is based in the Justice League universe. That is helpful for me, because the last graphic novel I read (Justice) required a lot of research on my part to get to know all of the characters.

This novel takes place after Justice, when the superheroes we all know (Superman, Wonder Woman) are no longer active, but their kids (mostly nameless) have taken over. Unfortunately, they see the world as their playground, and it is not for the better. Regular humans are thinking of taking Earth back for their own, with possibly disastrous consequences.

The story is told through the perspective of a pastor and an angel, who are invisible to the world (think Scrooge!). They are seeing events unfolding around them, as the world progresses to eventual war. Superman comes out of retirement to help, with unintended consequences.

The story is fairly straightforward, mostly takes place in one time frame, and reuses most of the familiar Justice League characters. All of these things make for a quick, easy, and satisfying read. This is probably the most enjoyable graphic novel I've read yet.

I think the next graphic novel I'm going to read is American Splendor by Harvey Pekar. Right now, I'm reading Chasing Filthy Lucre by Jarrett Rush. It's a mixture of crime/sci-fi that is pretty interesting.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Hogdoggin' – Anthony Neil Smith

Hogdoggin' is the followup Billy Lafitte novel after Yellow Medicine, the story that originates the character. Without revealing too much of Yellow Medicine, Billy is on the run after escaping a Department of Homeland Security agen, who goes by Agent Rome. After the debacle of the Lafitte case, Agent Rome got “promoted” out of his job, and ended up with an FBI job in New Orleans. He's been secretly tracking Billy without the FBIs knowledge.

Billy has taken up with a motorcycle club/cult led by an aging biker named Steel God. He’s an enforcer, and has almost certainly killed a few people in his time with the club. He’s also Steel God’s most trusted advisor. Unfortunately, Billy gets the call that his family is in trouble. It’s almost certainly a trap set by Agent Rome to smoke him out (which he realizes), but he goes anyway. Along the way, he meets a woman, kind of kidnaps her and lets her go, gets kidnapped himself, and eventually ends up in a police standoff.

I wouldn’t classify the ending as a cliffhanger, but more of an open ending, almost certainly leading to another novel (think Jack Reacher in Lee Child’s 61 hours. Yeah, it can be kind of frustrating.

Up next is a graphic novel, Kingsdom Come.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Gravity's Rainbow - Thomas Pynchon

This book is completely insane, but in a good way. I first attempted to read this book in 2008 (after reading V and The Crying of Lot 49). It was too dense. I got 80 pages into it, and gave up.

I recently retried it, and it took a good two weeks for me to get through it. It also took several trips to wikipedia, both to look up events of WWII, as well as the book itself just to make sure I was on the right track.

Nonetheless, this book is not for the faint of heart, and I felt like I was being taken for a pretty crazy ride. I estimate I understood most of the plot (70%), with most of the obscure 1940's pop culture references going right over my head.

Nonetheless, I am glad I stuck with it. If you're not a fan of the writing style in V, your are not going to like this book (as previously mentioned). That's about all I am going to say about that, because nobody who ever reads this blog will ever attempt to read this book.

I've moved on to Hogdoggin by Anthony Neil Smith.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Witness to Death - Dave White

I'm back with another recent crime novel... or is it a thriller? I recently read it is a crime novel if the crime has already happened, and you are trying to figure out the novel, and it is a thriller is a novel if you're trying to prevent the crime from happening.

In Witness to Death, John, a high school teacher inadvertently witnesses one of his friends, Frank murder 5 thugs on a dock in New Jersey. One of the thugs follows he and his friend onto a train, where Frank strangles the final thug. Unfortunately someone snaps a cell phone photo of John, and he has to go on the run because there may be people inside the police who may be trying to kill him.

Along the way, John's girlfriend gets murdered, and we find out that Frank's real name is Peter, and he is actually an undercover homeland security agent who is trying to stop a guy named Omar from bombing an unknown target. There are other, complicated corporate and family dynamic things going on, which are too complicated to go into, and are probably spoilers anyway. The novel ends with a climactic scene that is worth the read in the end.

I have to admit, the beginning of the novel, while it has lots of action, is strangely slow. I think it is partially because there is not enough background info about Frank and John at the beginning, and it is hard to keep the two characters separate in your mind. I almost thought about putting the book down at about chapter 13, but I am glad I didn't, because the story really took off after chapter 15. The story gets even more complicated, it is pretty compelling, so the complication is worth it.

This is a great novel for $0.99 on the kindle, but you will have to work through the first 14 chapters to get the story moving. I really wish Dave White had done a little more character development before he got the action started.

I'm probably going to be out of commission for a while because I am going to try to read Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon, which is no small feat. After that, the new Nick Heller novel will be out. Buried secrets awaits!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sunset Express – Robert Crais

I’m back to the Vintage Crime with Sunset Express by Robert Crais. Originally published in 1996, this novel takes place in Los Angeles. Elvis Cole really shines when he is in L.A. Robert Crais effortlessly talks about the geography of L.A. It really makes you want to get a map out and start tracing Cole’s steps around the city.

The story starts out with a body found on the side of the hill near an upscale neighborhood in L.A. It turns out the woman is the wife of a wealthy restaurateur in L.A. named Teddy Martin. The detectives go to the husband’s house, where he claims that his wife was kidnapped and he was getting ready to pay the ransom. Turns out one of the detectives finds a bloody hammer in the bushes that ends up being the murder weapon. The only problem is that the detective has a slightly checkered past, including forgetting to read a murder suspect their rights and was once accused of planting evidence on a person to further career.

Teddy Martin goes on to hire a big time lawyer named Green. Elvis Cole gets involved in the case, when Green hires him to track down some leads that came in via a tip line. Elvis tracks down evidence that exculpates Teddy Martin and becomes famous in the process. It turns out everything is not as it seems, and it starts to look like the lawyer may have planted the evidence that Elvis finds. All of this is happening while Elvis’ girlfriend from Louisiana is in town with her son. There is a constant pull between him working and wanting to hang out with them.

The plot of this novel is actually kind of telegraphed, but the writing is so witty you still want to read it. This is classic, witty Elvis Cole. There is a lot of political back and forth between the DA’s office, the police force, the lawyer, and Elvis. Joe Pike plays a minor role in the novel, but not as much as many of the other Elvis Cole novels.

I’m currently reading the Nick Heller short story “Plan B,” and don’t know what I’m going to read after that!

Monday, May 16, 2011

More Sinned Against – Dave White

I recently finished Dave White's More Sinned Against, which is a collection of short stories starring Jackson Donne, a formerly drug addicted Private Detective/ex-cop working in New Jersey. Once again, I found out about this Kindle gem on Twitter. I paid $0.99 and read it mostly on my Kindle, but a little bit on my iPad when I didn't want to wake up my wife sleeping in bed.

This is a collection of short stories that tells the story of Jackson Donne. He goes on to star in two novels, When One Man Dies, and The Evil That Men Do. I haven't read either of those novels yet, but based on this short story collection, I probably will. The book consists of seven short stories and an introduction by Ray Banks, which is quite complementary. The book then gets a quick start with “God Bless the Child,” which is a story of assumed, but mistaken guilt of a party abusing a child. The story then goes on to give you a glimpse into Donne's old life as a cop. The story moves quickly and has some great character development for Donne.

The rest of the short stories continue to develop Donne's character and introduce his friends, which I imagine will come in handy in the future novels. The real standout story is the Derringer Award-winning story “Closure.” It was written about a year after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. It tells the story of a man named Omar Hassan being extorted for money to get information about his wife, who is missing after the September 11 attacks. Donne follows him to the money dropoff and some crazy things happen. It is a powerful story that makes you think, and I imagine it had an even greater impact when it was first published.

The character kind of reminds me of Matthew Scudder (in a good way), in that he is dealing with issues of past drug use while trying to keep things together and help people. The drug use doesn't play as much of a role in his day to day thoughts, but I definitely thought of him immediately.

My main distraction in the novel was Donne referring to “clicking the safety off” on his Glock, which you really can't do. It doesn't have a safety that operates like that. I think sometimes authors fall in love with the Glock because it has a cool name, but haven't really fired one. Spend some time at the range, and you won't forget. If you want a cool sounding gun with a safety, I would suggest the Beretta or Sig/Sauer.

This is a great value at 0.99, and I look forward to reading When One Man Dies and The Evil That Men Do. His most recent novel is available for 0.99 as well, and it is titled Witness to Death.

I'm currently wrapped up in some vintage crime, Sunset Express by Robert Crais. Elvis Cole rocks! It only took me about two months to get it from the library!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Yellow Medicine - Anthony Neil Smith

I found out about this novel through the crime/noir community on Twitter, which I have found generally makes good recommendations. I purchased the novel for 0.99 on Amazon, and read it on a mixture of my kindle and iPad.

Yellow Medicine is a novel starring Billy Lafitte, a deputy in small town named Yellow Medicine, Minnesota. Billy Lafitte is a crooked cop who lost his job in Louisiana after hurricane Katrina when he was taking kickbacks from citizens to help them recover/survive the hurricane. Oh yeah, he also murdered someone and covered it up with his partner at the time.

The novel starts out with Lafitte in federal custody, and then tells most of the story via flashback. The novel starts out quickly, and introduces a lot of characters sequentially, but logically, so it isn't too confusing. The character development of Lafitte is perfect, as is that of his muse, Drew a (female) bass player in a local psychobilly band. She asks him to check up on her boyfriend, who has apparently been involved in some sort of drug deal gone bad. The next thing you know, Lafitte is driving around with the severed head of a blonde girl in the back of his police cruiser, and things have just gone insane.

At this point in the novel, I was pretty pumped up. The plot was a little out there, but it has to be interesting, right? Next thing you know, Malaysians, Arabs and international terrorism are involved. This might have taken things slightly over the edge of believability, but the story remained entertaining. The ending of the novel is a little abrupt for my taste, but I will not reveal what happens, because I am anti-spoiler.

Overall, this book is a pretty wild ride and you are getting a lot more bang for the 0.99 than you will with a Donovan Creed novel! I would recommend reading this novel if you are a fan of crime fiction.

I have a few novels to read coming up. I'm probably going to take it vintage again with some Elvis Cole. I also have graphic novel and short story collection I want to start reading. Choices, choices!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Abandoned: A Thriller - Cody McFadyen

I was introduced to Cody McFadyen by the same friend who recommended Lee Child. That friend has never steered me wrong.

Abandoned is the fourth thriller in the Smoky Barrett series. Smoky is the leader of an FBI unit in LA that tracks serial offenders who perpetrate violent crimes. It happens that Smoky has been the victim of a similar crime herself where her husband and daughter were killed, and she was left with a large scar on her face.

The book opens with a wedding, and a victim of a serial offender dropped off at the wedding along with a note taunting Smoky, but telling her not to track him. Of course, she starts tracking him. Eventually she finds out someone is finding husbands on the internet who want to get rid of their wives, kidnapping the wives, holding them for SEVEN YEARS and then collecting the life insurance money.

It is an interesting premise, and Smoky is an awesome character. After four novels I've really grown to like her. She is a strong female character, an expert shot, and the group of people around her is interesting too.

As always, I'm really bothered by inaccurate gun talk. Unfortunately, McFadyen mentions Smoky making sure the safety is engaged on her Glock, and that isn't really possible.

I read this book in about 3 days, and about 50% of that was in 1 day. It was pretty awesome.

Up next is Yellow Medicine by Anthony Neil Smith.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Saving Rachel - John Locke

Why do I keep reading these books? Oh yeah, they are $0.99 and I'm bored. I've been using the Donovan Creed novels as filler lately. You know, when you finish a book that was epic, and you're not ready to commit yourself to something serious again.

This is a new twist on a Donovan Creed novel. It is not told from the perspective of Creed, but rather someone who needs Creed's help. Sam Case is a programmer who helps people embezzle money kind of as a financial advisor. He has a wife and a mistress, and someone who wants ALL of the money he has under his control. He plays Sam's love for his wife and mistress to get the cash.

Some interesting decisions are made along the way, and overall it is an entertaining read. There are even a few unpredictable twists. Unfortunately, in the end, the novel is just as over the top as the other Creed novels.

I think 0.99 is a good price for these novels. They take about 90 minutes to read, and the stories are kind of forgettable, but entertaining.

The next novel is Cody McFadyen's Abandoned. I've actually just finished it, and it's awesome!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Anathem - Neal Stephenson

It has been a while since I have updated the vintage crime blog, mostly because I have been reading Anathem by Neal Stephenson. It's not crime fiction, but I'm a huge Stephenson fan. My first Stephenson Novel was Snow Crash, Followed by Diamond Age, then Cryptonomicon, the Baroque Cycle (3 tomes, about 2700 pages!) and now Anathem.

Anathem is set in a futuristic alternative reality, where there is a divided world. Secular and Mathic. In the Mathic world, people live an acetic lifestyle, studying mathematics, astronomy, geometry and other aspects of basic science. They only mix with the secular world at set intervals or 1, 10, 100 or 1000 years. The longer they are secluded, presumably the smarter they are, and may even have mystical powers.

The story follows Fraa Erasmus, a decenarian (he gets out once every ten years) who finds himself in a complex situation involving the secular government, aliens, and the politics of believing in God versus pure math.

The first 100 pages are difficult to read. There is a certain vocabulary you have to learn involving the Mathic world. Stephenson also uses made up words to describe normal objects, such as jeejah (cellphone) and speelycaptor (video camera). Once you get the lingo, it is totally unobtrusive. The story is actually compelling, involves discussion of religion, metaphysics and politics. Without giving too much away, about 75% through the novel, I literally FREAKED OUT when something happened. It was awesome.

This is a blend of sci-fi and almost a little bit of historical fiction, since they live a kind of medieval backwards lifestyle in the Mathic world. You can't give up though! You have to push through those first 100 pages to get the language down.

Right now I'm reading a manuscript that a twitter friend wrote. I should be finished with that in a few days, then I am hoping to get back to some Elvis Cole! I've also been considering some vintage Lawrence Block!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lethal People and Lethal Experiment - John Locke

John Locke is an internet sensation, selling tons of Donovan Creed novels for $0.99 on While waiting for the next Elvis Cole novel to show up at my library, I decided to check out the first two Donovan Creed novels. I'm reviewing them together because I read them a day apart while waiting for and riding on airplanes from RDU to MCO via CLT.

First off, Donovan Creed is no Jack Reacher or Elvis Cole replacement. He might be able to beat up Nick Heller, but he lacks some finesse. The first novel starts out with Donovan being tortured by his CIA assassin partner. They are testing out some sort of microwave device that cooks you from the inside out. Yeah, the books are that over the top!

It turns out Donovan Creed works for the CIA in a black ops type role as a government assassin. Since the CIA doesn't really provide that much business, he has a bunch of assassination side jobs for the mob. Interestingly, these are tolerated by the CIA because they want him to keep his skills sharp. The premise of the novel is that he takes a job from a new employer, and everything shortly goes to pot. It turnes out his new employer is a quadriplegic little person with dreadlocks who controls a vast army of little people (as if testing out microwave torture equipment wasn't enough).

The second novel continues the insanity, while keeping the reading light. The titular Lethal Experiment is a social experiment where people in need of cash are offered $100,000 in a briefcase, with the stipulation that they know a criminal will be killed if they take the cash.

Both of these books were quick reads that were perfect for the airport. I didn't have to use too many neurons to keep the story straight, and it easily survived frequent interruptions. If you're bored and don't want to spend too much cash, these books will be great for you, but you'd be much better off spending your time reading some Henning Mankell or Robert Crais!

I'm currently about 25% through Anathem by Neal Stephenson. It's not a crime novel, but it is something I've been wanting to read for a while. I think it is about 900 pages long, so it may be a while before I send out another update!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Expiration Date - Duane Swierczynski

I'm only writing the author's name once because it is too long! I found this book via the author on twitter. Also, it is randomly the second novel in a row that I read taking place in Philadelphia. Philly is a really nice town, by the way. You can stay in the middle of town and pretty much walk anywhere in 20 minutes. Last weekend I took a short trip to Florida to visit friends and read 3 novels during the plane ride/layover time, so I'm currently in catch up mode.

This is a pretty interesting novel. When I first purchased it, I thought I was getting a crime novel (naturally), but ended up reading a sci-fi/thriller crime mystery. The way the story goes, a beat reporter loses his job and takes up the offer of staying in his grandfather's apartment for free. He ends up taking some expired acetaminophen which is actually a drug that lets you have out of body experiences in a different time - the year you were born.

The concept is interesting, the character background is complete, and the story/ending are perfect for the buildup. I have to say this was a pleasant SURPRISE novel, and I would definitely recommend it. The only negative thing I have to say is it was kind of short for the $9.99 kindle price!

Up next, the first two Donovan Creed novels. If you haven't heard of him, he's the $0.99 kindle sensation written by John Locke. I read the two novels in 3 days on vacation, so I may include them in one review.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Wolves of Fairmount Park - Dennis Tafoya

After spending several weeks in sunny Los Angeles with Elvis Cole, we have moved into darker Philadelphia with an ensemble cast including a cop (Brendan), his heroin addict brother (Orlando), the brother’s girlfriend, and a host of members of organized drug trade.

I have been to Philadelphia once, but I didn’t have a car, so I was pretty much forced to stay around City Hall. This book mostly takes place in Roxborough, which is on the Northwest side of town (at least according to google maps and Wikipedia). Interestingly, according to Wikipedia, this is a pretty nice part of town. However, there is definitely a seedy element in this novel.

The book starts out pretty quickly. We are introduced to the ensemble cast in rapid succession, and the book alternatively tells the story through the eyes of several of the characters. You have to stay vigilant about the perspective, or things can get confusing pretty quickly. I caught myself once or twice getting tired (I mostly read at night after everyone has gone to bed) and having to re-read a few paragraphs because I got the point of view mixed up.

In all, it is a pretty good crime story, which doesn’t have a surprise ending, but more of an unexpected villain. Dennis Tafoya’s depiction of the inner monologue and sensory input of a heroin addict (Orlando) are chilling, and make you feel a little sorry for the addict’s state of life. The amount of violence surrounding the drug trade in the novel is well done - not too over the top. Personally, I prefer getting to know one character really well, but Tafoya’s choice of an ensemble cast was refreshing given what I’ve been reading lately.

Strangely enough, and completely unintentionally, the next book I’m reading is Expiration date by Duane Swiercczynski is set in Philadelphia as well.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Justice Volumes 1-3

Once in a great while, I try out something new to expand my horizons. Past versions of this include: Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (awesome) and Lee Child (even better). I have also read one graphic novel in the past (Watchmen) which was mostly fueled by the movie. I had never read comic books before, so it was a real stretch to get through it. I only really started to understand it the second time I read it.

I randomly walked into the local comic book store, Ultimate Comics and asked the guys at the counter for a graphic novel recommendation. It came down to V for Vendetta and Justice. I had already seen the movie, so I opted for Justice.

Justice takes place in the DC Comics universe, and involves the Justice League of America (Batman, Superman, etc). What seems to be going on is all of the bad guys have started doing good things in the world (healing the sick, feeding the poor) while simultaneously taking down the Justice League. The basics of the story were pretty easy to understand, but I think you are supposed to know a lot of basic stuff about the DC universe such as character backstories to really understand this novel. It was an interesting read, with comic book art that basically looks like artwork. I think I'm going to have to read this one again before I understand it.

File this under I blogged it because I read it, not because I understood it.

Up next - The Wolves of Fairmount Park for the Do Some Damage book reading club.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Voodoo River - Robert Crais

Drugs? Check.  Corrupt cops?  Check.  Human Trafficking?  Check.

I finished Voodoo River last night, which was a great Elvis Cole novel.  Robert Crais seems to be stepping through the standard themes of crime novels with the Elvis Cole series.  Of course, the only other long series that I have read is the Reacher series by Lee Child, which was technically started after the Elvis Cole series.  Maybe Lee Child is going through the standard series, and Robert Crais invented it!

Either way, there are a few firsts in this novel.  Elvis meets his client out to lunch instead of at his office!  This was a refreshing beginning to the novel, because things were getting a bit formulaic.  Also, Elvis starts on what I think is is first long-term (a few weeks) relationship detailed in a novel.

This novel takes place in Louisiana, in and around Baton Rouge.  Great details include descriptions of the food including the rice and sausage they serve down there.  Another great detail is the extensive descriptions of the pavement, which apparently is largely made of crushed oyster shells down there.  If you have read my reviews before, you know I appreciate details in the story, as long as they are not too overbearing.

I don't like ruining the story, so I'll just say the plot revolves around Elvis Cole going to Baton Rouge, LA to track down the birth parents of an actress on a wildly popular Christian themed show on a major network.  Once he gets there, he quickly finds the birth parents, but gets involved in a crime ring that illegally brings foreign people over the border.  Elvis has a moral dilemma between protecting his clients identity and reporting a murder that he witnesses.

Also, Joe "best slack man in the world" Pike makes a great appearance in this book.  Elvis would have been TOAST without him!

I currently have the next two Cole novels on hold at the local library, but someone has them checked out!  I'm switching genres and reading the Justice graphic novel trio.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Free Fall - Robert Crais

Yes... I am in a rut of Elvis Cole, but it is anything but a rut.  I have finished Free Fall, I'm currently reading Voodoo River, and I'm looking at a pile of 4 more unread Elvis Cole (and Joe Pike!) novels sitting on top of my bookshelf.

Free Fall takes place in Los Angeles again, and this time Elvis Cole takes on an elite crime fighting unit at the request of the fiance of the junior member of the group.  He soon finds out they are tied into some illegal activity, and I'll just say it's pretty complicated.  Along the way, Elvis and Joe get arrested, which is TOTALLY AWESOME in the novel.    They handle it pretty well, and it is definitely a new twist in the series.

Joe Pike is extensively involved in this novel, and I love it.  I don't think I've mentioned this before, but there is a lot of gun talk in these novels, and it ranks in seamlessness with Lee Child's gun talk.  Interestingly enough, Elvis carries a firearm that I've never heard of, a Dan Wesson.

Right now, I'm halfway through Voodoo River, which takes place in Baton Rough, LA.  It is awesome too!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Lullaby Town - Robert Crais

I'm working my way through the Elvis Cole novels because they are awesome.  I highly recommend you start with The Monkey's Raincoat and work your way through the series.

Lullaby Town Elvis Cole leaves the comfortable climate of Los Angeles for wintry New York City and Connecticut. He's tracking down the long lost wife and kid of a blockbuster film director.  He eventually finds himself teamed up with Joe Pike going against a fictional New York Crime Family.

Aside from the sunny weather and lack of the Classic Corvette with the top down, this is classic Elvis Cole and Joe Pike.  This is a little more violent than the typical Cole novel, but it is not gratuitous.  This novel has pretty much solidified Elvis Cole on my list of classic crime characters.

I have the next two Elvis Cole novels in my possession, and will be reading them in rapid succession.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Stalking the Angel - Robert Crais

Jack Reacher - Kurt Wallander - Elvis Cole.

What do they have in common?  All are multi-novel crime fighters that I am now loyal to.  The best part, is they are all totally different characters!  Reacher is quiet but deadly.  Wallander is self-deprecating and clumsy.  Cole is witty and self confident.

Stalking the Angel is the second novel in the Elvis Cole series by Robert Crais.  It takes place in Los Angeles (I'm guessing they all do).  This book has even more 80's classic material in it, including Japanese feudal artifacts.  A successful hotelier shows up in Cole's office after a priceless book has been stolen from his house.  He reluctantly hires Cole after his (beautiful) secretary recommends him.

Elvis Cole then gets involved with the yakuza, a cult-like group of kids following around a japanese artist, as well as the LAPD.  I'm beginning to see a formula to these novels forming after reading just two, but I have to admit, I like it!

The book has great pace.  I finished it in two days.  80 pages the first night (I was tired, it was a Friday after a long work week) and the rest of the book Saturday night (11 pm to 1:30 am).  If anything, I would say the books are a little short (288 pages), but the length helps keep the pace up.  In a 500 page Reacher novel, there are usually about 50 slow pages in the middle somewhere, but I have yet to find that in an Elvis Cole novel!

Also, Joe Pike plays a slightly larger role in this novel, and he is great as ever.  Virtually doesn't speak, and takes care of business.  I'd like to see a short story where the two of these meet in a diner for lunch.  I've heard there are a few Joe Pike novels out there.  How does that work if he never talks?  Is it just all inner monologue?

I currently have the next 3 novels on order, so Lullaby Town is likely to be the next review.  My friend is trying to talk me into reading Neal Stephenson's Anathem.  I really like Stephenson, so you never know which book will be next!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ghost Country - Patrick Lee

Ghost Country is the sequel to The Breach by Patrick Lee.  Every once in a while you read a novel that is so well put together, you can completely believe the alternate reality that is presented in the book, and it totally draws you in.  The first novel I remember that did that to me was Dune by Frank Herbert.

This book is a sci-fi alternate reality action novel that starts with the attack of a motorcade that one of the main characters from The Breach, Paige is in.  Subsequently Travis (another one of the main characters from The Breach) is recruited to help rescue her.  The rest of the novel involves time travel, "outside the box" thinking and some good old fashioned action novel weapons laden assaults.  Without giving too much away, time travel is a part of this book, but it is presented in such a natural way it adds to the story.  There is a really fine line that the author has to walk with these kinds of things, and Patrick Lee did everything right with it.

One thing this novel had in it that The Breach didn't have were a few moments where my heart just sank, because I had no idea how the characters were going to get out of the situation they were in.   I really want to describe one situation that literally had me freaking out, but I can't because it would be too big of a spoiler!

Up next - I have no idea.  I wanted to read Stalking the Angel by Robert Crais, but it isn't on the kindle and they don't have it at my library.  No idea.  Maybe read some of Steve Weddle's short stories involving Oscar Martello.  My wife might kill me if she sees another book show up in the mail.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Monkey's Raincoat - Robert Crais

I think I may have found a match to Reacher.  An online friend suggested that I read The Monkey's Raincoat by Robert Crais.  I'm really glad she did.  The Monkey's Raincoat is the first novel in the Elvis Cole series of crime novels.  According to wikipedia, Robert Crais is a former 80's TV screenwriter a la Miami Vice and Hill Stree Blues!

Elvis Cole is a former Army Ranger who has turned private detective.  He's hired by a woman whose husband and son have disappeared.  During the investigation, he finds out some cocaine goes missing from a retired matador's mansion in southern California (how 80's is that!) and he bends a few rules to get the cocaine and a few hostages back.  There's a great action scene at the end of the book that is worth the wait!  There is some great character development in the book, with some pretty intense descriptions of Elvis' cat, house and office that really add to the character.

Even though Elvis Cole is clearly the star of the book, the character that really steals the show is Joe Pike.  I think he's Reacher's shorter twin.  He's silent, knows his guns, and can definitely take down a few bad guys.  I think there needs to be a short story crossover with Joe Pike and Reacher.  I'm sure this call to action on my widely read blog will make it happen.

Up next:  Ghost Country by Patrick Lee vs. Stalking the Angel by Robert Crais.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Hangman's Daughter - Oliver Pötzsch

I found this book via Amazon crossroads, which is an effort by Amazon to get English speaking people reading foreign books.  I think they might be trying to find the next Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  I can't blame them for trying!

This is a historic crime novel that takes place in the 1600's in the Bavarian town of Schongau.  Basically, a few children are murdered, and the town council wants to blame the local midwife via witchcraft because they are found with a strange marking on their back that looks like the work of witchcraft.  The town Hangman, Jakob Kuisl takes it upon himself to prove the midwife innocent, and thus finds himself in the middle of a somewhat complicated plot involving someone from his past.

I can't go too much into the story without revealing plot twists, but I will say the character development of the Hangman, and his sidekick Simon the itinerant surgeon is excellent.  The plot gets a little tiresome here and there, but overall it is enjoyable.  The quaint town makes a great setting for a crime mystery, and the villain (whom they literally call "The Devil" is a great evil character).  The dark mood in this book is second only to The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón.

The book is translated from German.  I never know if the simplistic language is a function of the translation, or if that is what the author originally intended.  There are several chase scenes in the book, and each time as the person gets tired, the "metallic taste" in the person's mouth is mentioned.  I don't know if "metallic taste" is the German equivalent of sinew/sinewy (my least favorite overused term in American fiction).

Another cool part of this novel is that the author is actually related to the (fictional) main character, Jakob Kuisl.  Apparently the Kuisl's are a long line of hangmen in Bavaria.  One of the author's relatives was an amateur genealogist who traced the family back to the Kuisl's.

For less than $5 on the Kindle, I think this is a great value and a great read!

My next read is The Monkey's Raincoat by Robert Crais - originally published in 1987.  Let's hear it for some old school crime fiction!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Breach - Patrick Lee

Once in a while, you read a book that gives you a breath of fresh air.  The latest one for me is The Breach by Patrick Lee.  While not really a crime novel, I still have to review it because it is that good.

If you've ever read Daemon by Daniel Suarez and liked it, you're probably going to like this book too.  The book is built on the premise that the government tore a hole in space/time, and useful/dangerous objects come out of that tear a few times a day.  An organization is formed to protect it.  Someone breaks off of the organization with a few objects, and crazy stuff starts to happen.

It really is a great thriller, with a heroes named Travis and Paige (and yes, there is some chemistry there).  The beginning of the book takes off as fast as Persuader by Lee Child, and keeps going.  If there is a lull in the book, it is only about 50 pages in the middle, but I got through that pretty quickly.  I picked up the book on Thursday night, and read the first 160 pages in about 90 minutes, which kept me up until about 1:30 am.  I would have finished the book within 24 hours if i wasn't so tired from reading it!

I have to give this book my highest recommendation!  There is a sequel out there too called Ghost Country, which I will be reading shortly.

Next on my list is The Hangman's Daughter, which I found on Amazon's crossroads.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Velocity - Alan Jacobson

Wow, what can I say about Alan Jacobson's latest novel?  Unfortunately, not a lot because it would spoil just about everything that has to do with Crush, the book that precedes this novel.

Basically, it is a continuation of Crush, adding complexity to the story that is started at the end of that novel.  Really, these two books could have been one, but who is going to buy an 800 page thriller?  Well, probably me, but not the masses. (anyone else read the entire Baroque Cycle?)

In this novel, Karen Vail is on the trail of a serial killer, who looks like a copycat of the killer from Crush.  She then finds herself entwined in a DEA operation, which takes over the remainder of the book.  I've read all of the Karen Vail novels on the Kindle, and it was awesome!  The first two were free, and I paid 12.99 for the final novel, which violates my 9.99 Kindle max.  I figure the first two were free, so it evens out.

Once again, I like the character Karen Vail better than the story, but the novel was still worth the read.

Up next, Patrick Lee's The Breach, at the suggestion of Sabrina.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Crush - Alan Jacobson

I just finished Crush by Alan Jacobson, and wow, what an ending!

This is the second novel in the Karen Vail series (now three books).  Karen Vail is a top profiler for the FBI, who gets a (little too) involved in her cases.  In this book, she is on vacation in Napa Valley, when she and her boyfriend find a dead body inside a wine cave.  Karen then inserts herself into the team to find what turns out to be a serial killer that has been operating for quite some time.

The best part of this novel is the character of Karen Vail.  She's smart, intense and a little bit confrontational.  She makes a few mistakes in the novel, but recognizes them and takes them in stride.  I thought the first Karen Vail novel (The Seventh Victim) was a little over the top, but I really liked the character, so I gave the second novel a try.  The fact that both of the novels were free on Amazon for the Kindle helped out a bit too!

The book is also a quick tour of Napa Valley, and mentions several famous vineyards.  My only criticism of the novel is that it may be a little TOO researched, meaning there are a few too many brand names thrown in there.  I know some people think this adds authenticity, but for me, when it is a constant lineup of brand names, it feels a little too commercial for me.

The ending of this book makes me want to pick up the third Karen Vail novel ASAP, but I think I'm going to take a friend's advice and read The Monkey's Raincoat by Robert Crais next.  circa 1992!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Killing Floor - Lee Child

This is a review/re-read that I have been looking forward to since I started this blog!

Killing Floor is the first Jack Reacher novel written by Lee Child.  This was originally recommended to me by a mentor at work.  After reading this book, I subsequently read all of the Jack Reacher novels, pretty much in a row.

The book takes place in Margrave, Georgia, which is a fictional town about an hour outside of Atlanta (I looked it up, it doesn't exist!).  It is a perfect town, where everything is not what it seems.  Jack Reacher is quickly accused of murder.  Once he comes up with an unshakable alibi, he finds a few reasons to stay in town to help the police department solve the murder.  I am being intentionally vague.  I don't want to give away any of the early twists in the book!  I originally read the novel in March 2009, so I didn't remember all of the plot details.  The book has a lot of plot twists, several of which I did not remember.  I'm not going to give them away, but they are totally reasonable, and make the book really exciting.

The best thing about the book is re-reading the character development of Reacher at the beginning of the novel.  If it's your first read, pay attention!  It will serve you well throughout the rest of the novels.  This is one of the novels written in the first person, so it really lets you get inside Reacher's head and listen to Reacher's inner monologue.  There is a lot of tactical talk about how to engage enemies which is totally reasonable.  There is also a fair amount of gun talk in the book.  This is one of Lee Child's strong points.  He can talk military without sounding cheesy.

The climax scene is classic Reacher too. Of course, it takes place at 4am, which he took from the KGB.  This is a recurring theme in the books.

Overall, this is a MUST read.

Up next - I don't know quite yet.  I'm taking suggestions.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Art of the Re-Read

I'm currently about two-thirds of the way through my re-read of Lee Child's original Reacher novel Killing Floor.  It is taking a little longer than I expected, since we have our new baby girl Elizabeth at home.  Since I've been re-reading lots of my favorite novels lately, I thought I would pass on what I have learned.

1.  Take your time.  One thing I am guilty of when reading a novel for the first time is racing to the finish.  This is the part of the book that is usually about two thirds of the way through that you just can't stop reading.  I think i read two out of three words at this point when I'm trying to get to the end.

2.  Pay attention at the beginning.  Authors take a lot of time developing characters, and are very careful about how they do it.  If you're re-reading the first in a long series of books, pay attention!  One of Jack Reacher's major traits is his silence.  He only speaks if it helps him.  This took me a while to pick up on, but it's right there in the beginning of the novel!

3.  Read critically.  Authors write, revise, read, and re-read their novels several times getting them just right.    Take a little bit of extra time to see where you would have taken the story.

I'm hoping to put up a proper re-read review of Killing Floor in the next few days.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

CRASHERS - Dana Haynes

The baby is just over a week old and doing well.  Back to her birth weight already!

I've been meaning to read CRASHERS by Dana Hayes (he's a guy)  for about a year.  My mentor who recommended Lee Child recommended this novel too, so I knew it was going to be good.  I kept waiting for the Kindle version to go under $10, but it never did.  Eventually i just bit the bullet and bought it at $11.99.  Thank goodness for the Kindle.  I have to say it is the best reading experience available.  I'm not a paid spokesperson!

CRASHERS is a novel that surrounds the fictitious crash of a wide body airliner in the Pacific Northwest.  It follows the story of the NTSB crew that shows up to figure out why the plane crashed.  The main characters are an Israeli ex-pat/former spy now living in the US who infiltrates a terrorist cell (hot chick), the NTSB investigator in charge (strong male lead) and his love interest (another hot chick), another member of the team.

This is one of those novels where everything is laid out at the beginning; the good guys, the bad guys, and even mostly how the bad guy pulled off the crime.  The rest of the novel is devoted to character development, technical details, and filling out how exactly everything happened.  I actually like this style of novel, because it lets you think about the details (is that a recurring theme in my blog?)

There is a forthcoming sequel, which I will definitely be reading!

I only have 2 criticisms of the book.

1.  There is mention of flipping of the safety on a Glock (Glocks don't have safeties - any Reacher fan will know this).

2. There is a bit too much detail in the fashion/clothes side of things.

I have the next week off for paternity leave, so expect another novel review sooner than later!  I'm thinking about a re-read of Killing Floor, one of my top 2 Reacher novels!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Casino Royale - Ian Fleming

This is a real VINTAGE crime blog, since today I'm reviewing Casino Royale by Ian Fleming.  This was first published in Great Britain in 1953, and I read a 2006 paperback edition that was actually published after the release of the film starring Daniel Craig.

First of all, I read this book in the labor and delivery suite and postpartum unit before and after my second daughter was born!  There is a significant amount of down time after the delivery, and I thought a re-read would be perfect for the setting.

This is the original James Bond novel, and I have to say if you are a fan of the films, this is a MUST READ!  Going into this book, you have to completely throw out preconceived notions based on the Daniel Craig film.  For starters, they play baccarat, not poker, and the ending is completely different.  Come to think of it, so is the beginning and middle!  I think of this book as classic bond, and can imagine the character being played only by Sean Connery.

The basic story is Le Chiffre is a bad Russian spy who lost a whole bunch of Russian money, and tries to win it back playing baccarat at the Casino Royale.  Bond is sent in to bankrupt him and expose him.  This is the novel where the Bond Martini is made, Bond's Bentley motorcar is described in painstaking detail, and Bond displays his extensive knowledge of wine and food.  In the middle of that, there are numerous assassination attempts on Bond, a whole lot of sexual tension, and a few great hands of baccarat being played.   If you don't know how to play baccarat, don't worry!  The game is explained in detail!

The great thing about this book is the atmosphere created by Ian Fleming.  Every room and situation is described in great detail without becoming tiring.  Fleming clearly knows his brand names, and he chose timeless ones in the book (Bentley, Hermes) that do not sound out of place in the Casino Royale.  The opening paragraph of the book illustrates that perfectly; "The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning.  The the soul-erosion produced by high gambling - a compost of fear and greed and nervous tension - becomes unbearable and the senses awake and revolt from it."