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.