Monday, August 31, 2009

Finished: "Mr Monk Goes to Germany" by Lee Goldberg

Finished: Mr Monk Goes to Germany by Lee Goldberg, 2008, 9780451220998.

The second darn good novel in a row for me.

I have always had a negative opinion of novels that are tie-ins to movies or television. I've always figured they were commissioned hack jobs aimed at reluctant readers and imbeciles. But, after Bill Crider recommended several Monk novels I decided to give one a try. Crider does not appear to be an imbecile and the book sure was good.

Monk is going through his usual, daily difficulties. Monk loses a sock and is convinced his new neighbor stole it. The new neighbor has only one leg and Monk is greatly upset about the lack of symmetry. When Monk hears that the neighbor had his leg caught in a hiking trip and had to cut the leg off, and then eat it, Monk goes more bonkers than usual; he is convinced the neighbor is a cannibal. But, Monk's psychiatrist is at a conference in Germany and unable to see Monk for his twice weekly appointments. Monk does the only logical Monk thing and flies to Germany.

Natalie accompanies Monk, of course. Natalie is, in fact, the first person narrator throughout the story and she is a very good character. I got a lot of Natalie's of personality and more background on Monk and herself that really filled out the story. There is no need to be acquainted with the tv series itself (something Crider mentioned before).

Natalie and Monk fly to Germany and drive to Lohr. Monk is upset about the uneven houses and cobblestones. Natalie tries to enjoy the trip. Monk sees a six-fingered man like the one who was supposed to have killed Monk's wife. Natalie and Monk hassle the shrink. Monk hassles the cop about six-fingered man. Monk is asked by local cops for assistance in suicide investigation. Monk sees a murder scene. No one but Natalie believes Monk that a murder occurred. Monk proves six-fingered man is the killer in local murder case.

A fun novel with a lot of laughs. I saw Monk and Natalie differently than on the tv show. Goldberg has the space to show what Monk and Natalie's relationship is like and how difficult Monk can be. Heck, Goldberg shows how crazy Monk is. During the 44 minutes of each tv episode you laugh at the kooky Monk but do not get the everyday, all day insanity of the man.

EDIT: Boy, that reads like a rough insult of Crider. Not intended.
ANOTHER EDIT: I've found any recommendation by Crider to be worth a try.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Read: "Cottonwood" by Scott Phillips

Read: Cottonwood by Scott Phillips, 2004, 9780345461002.

I previously read Phillip's Ice Harvest and Walkaway. Both those books were well above average and the Wichita settings were fun for me. Both were period pieces and the sex angle ofWalkaway and Wichita history were quite neat. I had no idea Phillips had a third book out until I saw a reference to Phillips in a picture caption on Anthony Neil Smith's blog. Just goes to show that Smith is good for something after all. That and he did a piece on rural noir not too long ago that plugged my current read, Give Us A Kiss, which I am enjoying.

This one was damn good. One of the best books I have read in a while. And I have been sceraming through books this year. Set in 1873 and 1890 in the fictional Kansas town of Cottonwood.

Plot: Bill Ogden came out to Cottonwood with his wife a few years before 1973 to farm. Bill hated farming and started a saloon while a hired man helped work the farm. Bill still works the farm in the mornings but has mostly abandoned his wife and young son and lives in the city to work the saloon and sometimes do photographic portraits.

A rich guy from Chicago, Marc Leval, starts building a mansion in town with the hope that a new rail line coming through town will make Cottonwood a cattle train destination and make Leval even richer. Bill partners with Leval for a bigger saloon in anticipation of the coming boom. Meanwhile Bill gets the hots for Marc's wife, Maggie. Bill starts plugging Maggie. Bill avoids a local slut. Local slut's family, the Benders, turn out to be mass murderers who kill and steal from travelers. Family flees after being found out.

Bill joins the Bender posse and is partnered with Leval. Leval tries to shoot Bill in the back and misses. Bill shoots Leval in chest and leaves him for dead. Bill skulks out of town with Maggie. Bill and Maggie flee to CO and have an acrimonious split after a couple years. Bill ends up in San Francisco in 1890 after a 13 year break in the narrative. Bill sees newspaper article that the Bender women may have been caught. Bill decides to head back to Cottonwood for the trial. Bill finds that Marc Leval is still alive. Bill finds that Maggie had a son by Bill. Bill is convinced the two women are not the Benders. Bender women convicted anyway. Bill finds out that Leval and a couple others killed the Bender family, connived with the Bender's fence, and took all the loot. Bill kills the unrepentant scumbag who was in cahoots with the Benders. Bill and Maggie get back together in the end.

Bill is a self absorbed prick. Maybe it is due to a rough upbringing and Army service in the Civil War. He's more concerned with getting laid and making money than caring about others. He's mostly abandoned his wife in Cottonwood and barely interacts with his son. He runs off with another man's wife and then abandons the woman in CO when he moves to another town. When in San Francisco he lowers his rent by fucking his landlady. When he gets returns to Cottonwood he screws that landlady as well.

But, Bill does have a strong side towards justice. He tries to intervene in a town lynching in 1873. He owns a building in San Francisco that he won in a poker game and tries to help out the tenant running the rotgut saloon in it. Bill joins the posse to get the Bloody Benders. Bill ultimately kills the last remaining member of the Bender clan in 1890 and tries to force intervention on behalf of the suspected Bender women. He ultimately "redeems" himself in the end by reconnecting with his children and taking care of his family.

All in all a great book with a great lead character. Great period touch for SE KS. Good characters in the local bigwigs of Cottonwood from their starts in 1873 to their wealthy status in 1890.

EDIT: Forgot to mention that Phillips took a true story, the Benders, and incorporated the tale into the novel. He mentions al source in the author's note that would be worthwhile checking out, The Benders of Kansas.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Listened to: "The Good Guy" by Dean Koontz

Listened to: The Good Guy by Dean Koontz, downloaded from

Koontz is a good writer but I don't like his characters very much. They always engage in snappy patter and witty comebacks. I read that 2-3 book series with the guy who has a light sensitivity disorder (Fear Nothing, etc.) and I had the same dislike for those characters. The Fear books read like extended episodes of Friends with violence and mystery included.

Koontz's characters also seem to have all sorts secret skills and backgrounds. For instance, the main character in Good is Tim. Tim is presented as a regular dude who works as a mason during the day and hangs out in his friend's bar in the evening. But, Tim has all sorts of skills and bravery a normal guy doesn't.

One evening Tim strikes up a conversation with a fellow bar goer and gets handed an envelope with $10k and a woman's photo. The other guy wants Linda, the woman in the photo, dead and has mistook Tim for a hired killer. The first guy leaves and a second guy comes in the bar and talks to Tim. The second guy is the real hired killer and assumes Tim is the buyer. Tim tells the killer to forget the job and then Tim goes to tell Linda she is in danger.

Linda and Tim flee the seemingly psychic killer who finds them most anywhere. Of course, the reader knows the killer - a man with multiple aliases - is using some high tech methods and the assistance of a support team to guide him along. Tim and Linda have close calls. Masonry love ensues. Tim calls on a cop friend for help. Killer is part of a dark conspiracy. Tim uses mysterious yet amazing skills and methods to avoid the killer. Kahr love ensues. Linda gets hot for Tim, Tim gets hot for Linda. Tim kills killer and conspiracy people warn him off. Tim tells the President about the conspiracy and the conspiracy is taken down while Tim and Linda enjoy their life together.

A big annoyance is how Tim turns out to be a super-duper war hero. Not just any war hero though, he is a Medal of Honor winner who saved his fellow Marines and a few hundred civilians who were about to be slaughtered. Yeah, right. Of course, he uses the connection of having met the President's mom to parlay a private meeting with the President to present some evidence on the evil conspiracy. Yeah, sure.

My not liking the two main characters is usually a real deal breaker for me. But, Koontz created a real nasty villain and knows how to drive the plot and story along.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Quit Reading: "Ambush" by Paul Carson

Quit Reading: Ambush by Paul Carson, 2004, 9780312367114

I was reading this during vacation. I gave up about a 1/4 of the way through because it was just not all that exciting. I did not like the writing all that much and the main characters are annoying.

Scott Nolan is a doctor in Dublin. Nolan followed his Irish wife there but he does not like the urban crime he has found. Nolan has become nationally famous after being picked to assist the government's anti-drug campaign by appearing on television to show the effects of drugs on society.

That anti-drug campaign has been wreaking havoc on Irish dealers and some weaselly guys see an opportunity to step in and take over the drug trade. Since many dealers are going out of business or going to jail the Weasels plan assassination of both the Minister for Justice and Scott. Both assassination attempts fail but kill a couple cops and Scott's wife.

Scott goes into grief with round-the-clock police protection. His cop brother-in-law blames him. Scott is asked to pretty much quit his job because people are afraid of a second attack on Scott happening at work. Scott plans to dump his protection and make himself a target in an attempt to catch the killers.

A neat idea and a neat setting. But, I did not like the execution.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Listened to: "The Prosecution of George Bush for Murder" by Vincent Bugliosi

Listened to: The Prosecution of George Bush for Murder by Vincent Bugliosi, 2009, downloaded from

Boy oh boy. Bugliosi really hates Bush and Cheney and the all the rest. Bugliosi cuts no corners on this one. I did not agree with everything he said but he gives some very strong arguments.

Incompetence before 9/11. Failure in Afghanistan to catch or kill bin Laden. Bailing from Afghanistan to go to Iraq. Falsifying evidence about Sadam. Lying the country into Iraq and then fucking up the war anyway. Refusing to even get the needed equipment in place. What a fucking disaster.

I won't recap the book and add comments since I finished listening to it about a month ago. Bugliosi contends that Bush could be tried in any local jurisdiction from which a local soldier could have been killed due to Bush's falsifications.

Read: "Trial by Fire" by James Reasoner

Read: Trial by Fire by James Reasoner, 2002, 0312873468.

The second book in Reasoner's Last Good War series. If the third book is like this one I know why a fourth book was never requested by the publisher. This one just kind of dragged along and runs 445 pages. I have the third one at home and may as well try it. If it drags too much I'll bail on it since I assume there will not be much of a resolution in the end.

Dale and Joe are training British tankers in England for the U.S. Army and then sent to Egypt. Adam is a Marine on Wake Island. Adam's wife Catherine is a Navy nurse in Pearl Harbor and then on a hospital ship. Adam gets sent to San Diego and becomes an officer. Secondary characters live and die while fighting at Wake, Coral Sea, and Midway. Dale sneaks out on a mission to the Egyptian desert. Joe meets a Brit intelligence officer. Both are obviously intended to join up with the LRDG or SAS.

The first in the series was a neat look at pre-war life in Chicago and the political and military build up to war. This had a lot of slow parts and lacked the insight of that first book. The storyline about Wake Island was neat. Reasoner keeps Adam on Wake all through the defensive preparations by the Army and the first attacks by the Japs. Dale and Joe barely seem to make it into the story.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Finally Found the Dang Book: "Eddie's World" by Charlie Stella

Finally Found the Dang Book: Eddie's World by Charlie Stella, 2001, 078670893X

I grabbed this to take on vacation after Crider did a plug on a different Stella book. I finished this book a couple weeks ago but could not find the damn thing. It showed up when my wife was cleaning. This is Stella's first novel and is pretty good.

Eddie is a former full-time crook who still has one foot in the crime world as a loanshark. The rest of his work is temping as a word processor for different places in Manhattan. Eddie is connected to a mob boss but Eddie was never a "made" guy or even a whatevertheycallguyswhoworkitfulltimeforthemob. Eddie got into the word processing career as a way out of crime. But, Eddie likes certain aspects of that life: he has friends in the there, there is money there, he has always done it, there is some excitement, etc.

Eddie's marriage to a flaky gal is in trouble and he is planning a burglary with his pal Tommy. Eddie doesn't need the money but 15k is 15k and the burglary is a favor to a friend, Sarah. Eddie met Sarah while on a temp job and she offered the burglary as a way to get even with her boss. Eddie and Tommy hope to score about 15,000 bucks out of the boss's desk before he uses the cash for an illicit diamond deal.

Meanwhile, Sarah is boinking a recently released con who is on an FBI tether. The Con is working for the FBI to set-up other crooks (a minor drug dealer for instance) for the FBI and figures to make a buck by stealing Eddie's score by grabbing the cash and the diamonds.

Eddie doesn't get the cash because the Boss, the diamond salesmen, and Sarah meet for the sale and are all murdered by the Con who takes the diamonds as well. The triple murder happens in an upscale area and the heat is on to catch the killer. Eddie and Tommy steal some computers in the burglary and the cops connect the murder to the burglary to the computers to Tommy.

Eddie already knew of the Con's existence and goes looking for him. The cops go looking for Eddie. Tommy panics. Eddie's wife sleeps with her boss. Con tries to set-up Eddie to get killed by some Russians looking to buy the diamonds. Eddie's wife and his teenage son are in danger. Scummy FBI guys look the other way when Con does bad. Tommy is killed. Eddie comes to the rescue of wife when Con shows up. Eddie gets away with a minor charge and six months county time.

The books is much better than my woeful description; there is more to the story and the characters and plot are all interesting. No dull moments.

A good bit of humor between Eddie and Tommy, Eddie and his nutso wife.

Finished a Few Minutes Ago: "Renegades" by T. Jefferson Parker

Finished a Few Minutes Ago: Renegades by T. Jefferson Parker, 2009, 9780525950950.

Another fine bit of work by Parker. This is the second Charlie Hood novel and Hood is just as interesting in this one as in L.A. Outlaws.

Hood still works for the LASD after the Allison Murietta case in L.A. Outlaws where Hood was alternately chasing and courting Allison. Hood requested a transfer to the high desert of Antelope Valley. Hood loves to drive and the wide-open spaces soothe him and remind him of Bakersfield where grew up.

Hood is partnered one night with Terry Laws. Hood and Laws go to assist a housing authority inspection at a local home. After getting back in their car a gunman - armed with a 249 SAW for fucksakes - rips off a hundred or so rounds into Laws while Hood dives out the door. Before Hood can get a shot off the gunman has split. Hood gets a temporary transfer to IAD and is assigned to the murder case.

Hood looks into Laws background to find a suspect. He sees that Hood had a lot of expensive property and digs deeper to see Laws was depositing about $7k in cash every weekend. He sees that Laws and a Reserve Deputy, Draper, are both looking crooked.

Things happen: Hood digs a DA. Hood goes driving his old IROC, Hood tries to sway Allison's son to the light side, Red Herring goes on the lam, Hood goes driving, Draper fills in background in tale to Allison's son, Hood watches DA go drag racing in the Top Fuel class, Draper does dirty deeds with drug smugglers, Hood goes driving, Hood gets shot in Mexico and escapes by pure luck, Hood goes for a drive with DA.

Things that were BS: The final shootout between Hood and Draper. The interview with Allison's son and several Deputies. The Red Herring set-up with the 249 hidden in Red Herring's box spring.

A real good story by Parker: Neat looks into the different towns and cultures of L.A. county. The cost of a high end oil change (85 freaking dollars). Three neatly told gunfights. Dog love. Sociopathic thinking.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Read: "Camp Ford" by Johnny D. Boggs

Read: Camp Ford by Johnny D. Boggs, 2007, 9780843958386. Paper version.

Not quite a western. A real good story.

Win McNaughton was 11 years old in 1858 when he was introduced to baseball. His pharmacist father grabbed him from downtown and took him to watch a game in their Rhode Island town. Win loves the game and plays whenever possible. When his abolitionist father moves the family to West Texas to praise abolitionism Win brings the game with him and gets other kids to play.

The family moves back to Rhode Island after the war starts and Win's dad enlists in the artillery. His father is killed at Gettysburg. Win enlists to revenge his father and to escape the accountant's life his mother has planned for him. Win and his best pal are captured in the failed Red River campaign and end up in a TX prison camp called Camp Ford.

Win's unit is trying to tunnel their way out but are caught after an informant tells the rebels. Win and other federals have begun playing baseball in the camp and the rebel guards have started to play baseball among themselves. Win's commander comes up with a plot to challenge the rebs to a ball game outside the camp at the rebel's field. The federals will have 18 players armed with bats and the plan is to bash some guards, grab their weapons, and escape.

The informant is found out, they find the new escape plan is known, but challenge the rebs to a real game. The climactic game ends with Win running for home plate with the vicious reb playing catcher getting distracted by a horseman tearing across the field announcing Lee's surrender.

A really good story. I'm not a fan of either baseball or Civil War history but really enjoyed the story. Neat period details about baseball rules, Joslyn carbine, cavalry, baseball equipment, prison camp life, varying relationships between federal prisoners and reb guards, period slang, etc. The secondary story line between Win and his former best pal he enlisted with was a nice touch.

EDIT: Boggs, or someone else from NM, bopped over here. I looked at Boggs' website and just found out that Camp Ford won the Spur Award in 2006. No great surprise, it's a good book. I also noticed that Boggs will attend the Jesse James days in Northfield in Sep, '09. I looked at that website and saw that there will be a "vintage" baseball game. Boggs will be in heaven.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Quickly Finished: "Murder in Four Parts" by Bill Crider

Quickly Finished: Murder in Four Parts by Bill Crider, 2009, 9780312386740.

All the Sheriff Dan Rhodes novels are good but this was better than average. Which means that this one was better than better. Rhodes is a neat character. As I said in a Library video, Rhodes does not suffer fools gladly, but he does suffer them tolerantly. This one has plenty of grouches and slouches for Rhodes to negotiate.

Rhodes gets called out about a rogue alligator call in rural Blacklin County. Then he gets a call to a murder scene. A local florist had his head bashed in. Rhodes is an even tempered and inherently kind guy but murder gets him angry. He investigates, mediates and cogitates until he figures it out.

Crider does such a dang good job at plotting. His keeps his stories moving along little to no cop lingo, car lingo, gun lingo, technological (computers, GPS) lingo and other "stuff". He also keeps me guessing on the killer's identity. Multiple characters are introduced and intertwined and Crider's plots always work for me. What can I say? I'm a suck-up.

Gratuitous References To: Joe R Lansdale, rogue alligator, Lake Placid, self-quoting on "take it or leave it" of the internet, pulp paperback love, nostalgia, possible reference to a Bill Crider pseudonym - but I won't bother to try and look it up, Kingston Trio reference, eBay love,
and local history, afternoon matinees on tv.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Read: "Hunt at the Well of Eternity" by James Reasoner

Read: Hunt at the Well of Eternity by James Reasoner, 2009, 9780843962468.

Is there anything that Reasoner cannot do? I ordered this one after seeing a blurb on Christa Faust's blog that she will be doing a book in this new series from Hard Case. Although this is published under the name Leisure Books. This is a loving takeoff of old adventure pulp novels but with present day setting. This reminded me of Mack Bolan books which, I suppose, are part of that continuum of men's adventure novels. Lots of action scenes, exotic hot chicks, international travel, and rich guys.

Gabriel Hunt, and his brother Michael of the Hunt Foundation, are attending a party at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A hot latin chick approaches Michael with a cloth wrapped bundle but is attacked by a waiter. Other waiters draw guns and start shooting. Gabriel fights a big guy waiter and girl is kidnapped.

Michael and Gabriel steal away the remains of the girl's bundle. Clues from bundle send Gabriel to Florida. Gabriel attacked on way out of NYC, Gabriel attacked twice in Florida, Gabriel goes to Mexico City, Gabriela and a second hot Mexican chick from a museum are attacked by Evil Guy's assassins, Gabriel and Hot Chick 2 are on the run to Southern Mexico, Gabriel and Hot Chick 2 are attacked in Chiapas, Gabriel is in bull whip fight (with indirect reference to Indiana Jones as a real person), Hot Chick 2 and Gabriel share fluids, Gabriel and Hot Chick 2 battle evil bad guy, Gabriel and Hot Chick 2 and Hot Chick 1 are captured by evil bad guy, Gabriel and Hot Chick 1's village defeat Evil Bad Guy.

Fun stuff with the legend of the Fountain of Youth's real source credited to Central America where former Confederate soldiers from the Civil War have been living for 150 years thanks to the water. Hot Chick 1 was bringing a water sample to be tested by the Hunt Foundation with hope the Foundation would bankroll more research. Interesting tale of Confederates refusing surrender and fleeing to Mexico.

Difficult to Finish: "Agincourt" by Bernard Cornwell

Difficult to Finish: Agincourt by Bernard Cornwell, 2009, 9780061578915.

Another French killing novel by Cornwell. Cornwell sure does love dead frogs and English archers. This was tough to finish because it was 437 pages long and I was constantly interrupted by attacks from Boy #1 and Boy #2. I enjoyed the book though.

Nicholas Hook's family has been feuding with the neighboring Perrill's for about three generations. One part of that feud is Reverend Martin, the not-so-secret father of two of the Perrill's. Hook tries to protect a girl from rape by Martin and slugs Martin. Slugging a priest is a capital offense and Hook flees to become a mercenary archer in France.

Hook survives the siege and slaughter at Soissons and rescues a girl about to be raped after the city falls. Hook and gal flee across France to Calais and then to England. Hook and gal are an item Hook is outlawed from slugging the priest but is taken in by a Sir John Cornwaill as an archer.

Hook travels with Cornwaill and the English army invading France. The army is stuck sieging the port city of Harfleur for longer than expected. The English start suffering from dysentery and waste away the summer campaigning season trying to breach Harfleur's city walls. By time Harfleur is defeated autumn is coming fast and the already small English army is badly weakened from disease.

English start marching to show King Henry's defiance to the frogs. English finally meet up with the much larger French army near the small castle of Agincourt. Heavy rain before the battle soaks the already rough and trampled ground. The frogs' cavalry are unable to slog through the thick mud. The French men-at-arms slog through the same mud in full armor to attack. The French men-at-arms flanks are open after the cavalry fails to kill off the English archers. The archers chew up the frogs and funnel them into a narrow attack line. English men-at-arms are able to chop up the French who are unable to use their numbers to advantage.

The French are killed in large numbers. Some French captives are killed during a lull on order of King Henry when he worries that guarding the captives takes up too many of his soldiers. The French lose and retreat. Hook and girlfriend capture her French knight father and will become rich from the ransom. Happy endings all around with dead French and rich English.

I first read about Agincourt several years ago in Keegan's The Face of War. Cornwell quotes Keegan in the beginning of the book. Both Keegan and Cornwell educate about the advantage and killing power of the English bow.

Standard Cornwell elements: rape and slaughter after military victory, hurrah for maps!, repeated info on archers and their bows, hero hooks up with hot chick, hot chick threatened by evil dude, evil dude has power through rank or birthright, lots of dead French in battle scenes, likable secondary characters are killed, good description of the fighting ground and other terrain, "brings history alive" writing, ruthless and cruel power of the church, ruthless and cruel laws and justice, revenge, lots of blood, atheism and devoutness.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Finished: "Sleeping Dogs" by Ed Gorman

Finished: Sleeping Dogs by Ed Gorman, 2008, 9780312367848.

Disappointing. I was expecting an evil protagonist politician with a secret he's killing to keep hidden. This is a well done book but I was hoping for something different with a cynical but realistic look at political campaigns.

Dev Conrad is a consultant to political campaigns. (Gorman never names party affiliation but Dev clearly works for Democratic candidates.) Dev knows that political consultants have a bad reputation but he works for clients whose politics he believes in. Senator Warren Nichols from Illinois is one of those candidates. Nichols is in a re-election campaign versus Congressman Lake. Lake is a goon but does well on television and in person.

Just four weeks before election day Nichols gets woozy and passes out during a televised debate. Creepy Lake plays the hero and assists Nichols there on the stage. Conrad suspects the Lake campaign of spiking Warren's drink. He investigates and comes across a well-known, and widely despised, dirty-tricks for hire guy. Dirty-Tricks claims innocence on the mickey but blackmails Nichols with a sex-tape of the married Nichols boning a chick. Nichols had promised up and down he was no longer a poon hound and Conrad is majorly pissed at Nichols' lying.

Things happen. Dirty-Tricks guy murdered. Conrad follows leads to discover the drink spiking. Nichols loves the ladies. Conrad strategizes and confronts Nichols several times. Red herrings discovered. Other things happen. Conrad figures it all out in the end.

A nice look at the inside of a political campaign and what different paid staff are responsible for.

EDIT: Not a lot of time is spent on Chicago and Illinois politics alone. This came out in early '08 before the Blagovich fiasco. But, Gorman does make mention of the previous Governor going to prison for corruption. Or maybe that was Sakey? Gorman does mention poor behavior by other politicians but names no names and may have just made it up anyway.

Gorman lives in Iowa and thanked a couple people for their help with Chicago and Illinois details. I wonder how much research he put into this? Some writers will pore over local detail and history and setting. Others are more concerned with character and story. I'd put Gorman in the latter category.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Just Finished:"The Fourth Victim" by Tony Spinosa

Just Finished: The Fourth Victim by Tony Spinosa (Reed Farrell Coleman), 2008, 9781606480106.

Hose Monkey was a revelation to me. Coleman's writing was great but the Long Island setting was entirely new to me and Coleman gave a full tour of the working class towns there: class warfare, immigration issues, the tough work of the heating oil businesses, developmentally disabled people, the Russian mob. This one was good but did not pack the punch of the first.

Joe Serpe has teamed up with former enemy Bob Healy to own a heating oil business. They run about four trucks and are doing okay on their way to saving enough money to buy a bar together. Serpe and the other C.O.D. drivers are on edge and night driving at night after the murder/robberies of three drivers. A fourth driver, Rusty Monaco, is killed. No one really gives a rat's ass about Rusty. He was a major asshole of a former cop who no one loved. But, Rusty had saved Joe's life during a narc operation shoot-out several years ago. Once Joe founds out an incompetent County cop is in charge of the murder investigation Joe promises himself to do whatever he can to solve the murder. Healy comes along.

Joe and Healy work the case- bad idea as private citizens. They look for connections among the dead drivers, start digging into Rusty's past, Joe meets Rusty's sister and bangs her, Bob ( a former internal affairs department cop) meets with a current IAD and gets his groove on, Joe and Bob find links to an old crime Rusty was involved in.

A good novel. Joe and Bob are good characters and a neat team. Comments:

1-This was 230 pages but I think Coleman could have tied the ending up a little better and quicker. This is one of those false endings where things get all wrapped up until the protagonists find a new clue that exposes a missing truth. I like those kind of endings but just felt this did not stack up as well as it could have.

2- I think the editing or proofing felt loose. Nothing I will point too, I feel like a griper by even saying that.

3- What the hell is a .9 millimeter handgun?

4-I bought some other Coleman named novels for the Library but have not gotten to them yet.

Read: "At the City's Edge" by Marcus Sakey

Read: At the City's Edge by Marcus Sakey, 2008, 9780141027760 (Limey paperback version).

I got a copy of this when Sakey was tossing them out to anyone who asked a question during his time on stage at ALA in July, '09. This was pretty decent. It was long too at 430 pages. A nice, cynical look at Chicago politics and crime.

Jason Palmer is a PTSD refugee from the Army. In fact, his PTSD was bad enough that he was fucking up while in uniform and had a less-than-honorable discharge. He's been drinking a lot, living in a month-to-month apartment, and banging sluts in the evenings. His brother Michael is a widower with an 8-year-old son, Billy. Michael owns a bar in a shithole (and imaginery) neighborhood of Chicago called Crenwood. Jason avoids a kidnapping linked to Michael. But, Michael is a do-gooder fighting the good fight in the Crenwood.

Michael ends up murdered and the bar burned down around him. Billy witnesses the murder and runs to Jason. Jason hides out with Billy and teams up with local gang intelligence cop Elena. Jason and Elena follow a trail leading to a gun dealing, the local gang bangers, a vicious murderer, an Alderman, and a super wealthy dude.

The mystery plot is okay. Nothing too great and exciting about it but very competent and keeping you guessing and moving along. Of course, since this is a mystery all the suspects and possibilities are presented early on. Nice conspiracy angle but a little far fetched in its reach.

The good stuff is the gritty look at a Chicago. The insight into the difficulty of dealing with gangs and getting kids out of them. Jason's tough dealing with responsibility and various guilt over his dead mother, dead brother, and a dead soldier in his infantry squad.

Included is: SIG love, military lingo, latina hot stuff, climactic death of bad guy, tragic but noble death of a good guy, Glock 27 love.