Monday, February 19, 2018

Review: DONKEY PUNCH by Ray Banks

Publisher Polygon
Length 248 pages
Format softcover
Published 2007
Series Cal Innes #2
My Copy I bought it

Donkey Punch is a vastly different read to the first Cal Innes book, Saturday’s Child. In Donkey Punch, Ex con, Innes finds himself in LA playing the chaperone to an up and coming boxer, Liam, who is participating in an amateur boxing competition. The competition is meant to be the first step in a lengthy career for Liam, himself, a reformed adolescent criminal. However, trouble soon finds Innes and before long it’s Innes throwing the punches outside of the ring and not Liam within.  

Boxing fans who enjoy crime fiction will get a kick out of Donkey Punch. There’s little in this book that resembles the private eye angle of Saturday’s Child, with Innes a glorified babysitter. That said, Innes is very much the hard-man of the preceding novel.

Two of the more prominent characters from the preceding novel Mo and Paulo return but play smaller parts. This book is all about boxing and keeping Liam in check – something Innes struggles to do (in favor of getting blind drunk and befriending strangers in bars).

Despite being the second Cal Innes book, Donkey Punch reads perfectly well as a standalone.

My rating: 3/5 stars, I think I would’ve rated this higher had I been a boxing fan.  

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Review: THE LIAR by Steve Cavanagh

Publisher Orion
Length 327 pages
Format softcover
Published 2017
Series Eddie Flynn #3
My Copy provided by the publisher 

When the daughter of a prominent businessman who runs a successful security firm goes missing, the only person who can be called upon to assist in facilitating the transaction of a hefty ransom is Eddie Flynn. 

Leonard Howell, the father, trusts few, it's his former life on the opposite side of the law which draws him to Flynn, the one time criminal/hardman turned lawyer. 

Nothing about the ransom drop is normal. For one, there's two drops scheduled simultaneously, secondly, the FBI have no knowledge of the drop Howell is making. Additionally, there's something 'off' with the agents at Howell's house; a tension without cause. 

From the moment Flynn climbs into  Howell's waiting car in the middle of the night he's involved in a proverbial spider's web of lies, deceit, mistrust and murder. 

Flynn is the modern day Perry Mason (created by Erle Stanley Gardner), a lawyer who isn't afraid to travel down that pitch black alley if it means he can scrap together evidence to secure his clients' freedom. 

More grit than Grisham, Steve Cavanagh, once again blurs the lines between courtroom thriller and crime fiction to write an entertaining and enjoyable story that captivates the readers attention from start to finish.  

My rating: 4/5 stars. I'm really enjoying this series and will have to pick up the latest Flynn thriller, Thirteen soon. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Review: FIFTY FIFTY by James Patterson and Candice Fox

Publisher Pengiun Random House
Length 382 pages
Format softcover
Published 2017
Series Harriet Blue #2
My Copy I bought it 

Sydney Vice Detective Harriet Blue once again finds herself on the outskirts of civilisation after assaulting the lawyer who is prosecuting the murder/kidnapping case against her brother Sam. Banished to the small community in regional NSW of Last Chance Valley she’s thrust into a violent case which threatens to cripple the 75-strong population.

There’s a terror plot, gold digging schemes, isolation driven paranoia and a group think which leads to all manner of drama for Blue, who, while dealing with her own inner demons from a fractured childhood, also contends with the deadly Australian desert.

Despite being the second (3rd if you include the bookshot) book in the Harriet Blue series, it reads perfectly well as a standalone. A great thing about this book is that there is always something happening – be it Harriet’s case or the case against her brother.       

My rating: 5/5 stars, better than Never Never which was also a very good read set in a mining town in the West Australian outback. I can’t wait to read the next installment. 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Review: UNSUB by Meg Gardiner

Publisher Dutton
Length 378 pages
Format hardcover
Published 2017
Series Unsub #1
My Copy borrowed from the library 

An unknown suspect has terrorized two generations with highly publicized displays of violence and an unabashed regard for human life. The rein of bloodletting first began in the 1990’s with law enforcement, in particular Detective Max Hendrix, unable to make headway into the spate of brutal killings. Now, his daughter, Caitlin, also a police officer in the present day setting, relives the nightmare in real-time which ultimately cost her father his family and job as the killer with the moniker ‘The Prophet’ makes a menacing return to the macabre.

Part cat-and-mouse, part police procedural, all high octane thrills, Unsub is popular fiction written to entertain while inducing fits of paranoia for those bumps in the night. This isn’t a book for the squeamish as author Meg Gardiner manages to incorporate many inventive ways of killing off characters.   

Like most books of this nature, there’s a personal element to the case and here it’s the Hendrix family. I liked the generational crime linkage and thought the present day and past criminal elements blended together seamlessly. Max is a complex character, though while not at the coalface of the present day investigation, he’s very much a large player in the broader plot. His daughter works in a complementary fashion to Max; she’s the investigator full of vigor and drive, Max is essentially a washed up ‘has-been’ - on the surface that is, the almost ying/yang effect works very well.

My rating: 4/5, this is the start of what promises to be a very entertaining thriller/crime series. I look forward to reading more of Caitlin’s cases, especially if the crime contains as much cryptic clues and mystery surrounding the antagonist as this one. 

Monday, February 5, 2018

Review: CLEAR TO THE HORIZON by Dave Warner

Publisher Fremantle Press
Length 378 pages
Format softcover
Published 2017
Series standalone (features characters from other books)
My Copy provided by the publisher

When you're touched by evil, it leaves deep within you a trace like some dormant virus waiting to be reactivated into full-blown dead. 

In 1999 and 2000, three young women go missing on separate occasions, last seen leaving a nightclub in the Perth suburb of Claremont. With the police not making any headway in the investigations, one of the families contacts renowned private investigator Snowy Lane for help. 

Clear to the Horizon is distinctly Australian, loaded with local colloquialisms and locales. The outback features prominently bringing the dusty and dangerous isolation that comes with it into the urban landscape in which the elusive kidnapper terrorizes young women.

This book reads as a tale of two stories; the earlier one centered around the missing women and Snowy Lane's case, with the second featuring a mining mogul's missing daughter in which Snowy is also brought in to investigate, this one is set some 17 years later. Both cases collide in great fashion as the lengthy cat and mouse hunt comes full circle. 

I really enjoyed Clear to the Horizon; the Aussie feel is great, the colorful language, similes and sense of mateship between PI and police force are a joy to read. 

My rating: 5/5 stars. Whilst Clear to the Horizon features characters from previously books written by Dave Warner, this one reads perfectly well as a standalone, though I am keen to check out City of Light, the preceding book featuring Snowy Lane.   

Friday, February 2, 2018

Pick of the Month [January 2018]

I read 18 books in January in what was a great start to the new year. Highlights included a couple of new crime fiction releases by A.J. Finn (The Woman in the Window) and Craig Robertson (The Photographer), a re-read of an old favorite by James Sallis (The Long-Legged Fly) and a couple of pulps by Carter Brown and James Hadley Chase (more on those below). 

However, the pick of the month (and my semi-theme of the month) was It by Stephen King, this, among other books firmly rooted in that nightmare-inducing genre were a lot of fun to read, Relics by Tim Lebbon was also a top January read. 

Each month I'm discovering new authors and new books to read. Andy Raush is a great example of taking a chance on a new author. His collection of 3 Elmore Leonard-like crime novellas in the collection Riding Shotgun and Other American Cruelties was easily a 5 star read. Additionally, Marshall Karp's collab with James Patterson in Kill Me If You Can was high octane thrills in typical Patterson punchy chapters - I thought the audio edition was great. 

Here are the notables: 

Riding Shotgun and Other American Cruelties by Andy Rauch - a collection of 3 blood-soaked crime novellas

The Girl From Outer Space by Carter Brown - a fun pulp featuring Hollywood Private Eye Rick Holman

The Soft Centre by James Hadley Chase - a timeless crime mystery, published in the 1960's which still reads well among today's modern crime mysteries.  

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Pick Up A Pulp [31]: THE SOFT CENTRE by James Hadley Chase

Originally Published in 1964 (my edition, 1974), The Soft Centre could arguably be relevant among modern day popular mysteries, albeit with a slight slant towards the sleazier side of fiction. At its core, the premise is pure murder mystery; the mutilated body of a murdered prostitute is found in a hotel room during the same period of time in which Chris Burnett, a wealthy heir-apparent to a prosperous business, goes missing, only to be found without any memory of the past 24hrs. 

Shady bookmakers, questionable intentions, a private eye on the take, and a prime suspect without his mind make for the perfect proverbial boiling pot of a pulp.

The Soft Centre switches gears along with its characters to enhance the story; there isn't one thread which dictates proceedings nor one character at the deadly soft centre. One of the few books I've had the pleasure of reading where the point of view is equally spread among victim, suspect, and ancillary players.  

My rating: 5/5, I enjoyed this pulp from start to finish. I'll be sure to read more James Hadley Chase in the near future.