Thursday, November 21, 2019

Spook: "The Wrath of the Bloodeye" by Joseph Delaney

Spook: Wrath of the Bloodeye by Joseph Delaney, 2008, downloaded from Wisconsin Digital Library.

I continue to enjoy these narrations.

Another Spook novel featuring apprentice Tom Ward. Ward is apprenticed to his county's Spook who catches and traps witches, boggarts, and other things on the side of the Dark. Tom is 14 and lives with the Spook. Alice, born into a witch family, also lives with The Spook but the Spook is very suspicious of Alice. The Spook thinks Alice has spent too much time with witches and Dark magic and may be doomed to serve The Dark.

These Spook novels keep getting longer and the plots more complex. Violence is increasing as the danger to Tom increases. There are more decisions by the Spook about dealing with Alice and threats by the Spook to send her away or bind her in a pit. Ward and Alice do not a lovey-dovey relationship though Spook obviously sees that happening - or worries for it.

The Spook also continues to show his age little by little and he cannot as quickly recover from physical challenges. He also cannot provide the fight training that Thomas needs - especially since Thomas is marked a threat by the recently introduced The Fiend. So, Thomas is sent North for a six-month apprenticeship with grouchy drunk Bill Arkwright.

Arkwright lives by the coast and knows all about water witches and dealing with them. Arkwright's home is a old mill that is falling apart. His ghost mother and father live there since there suicide and accidental deaths years ago. Arkwright is an angry man and an angrier drunk. He doesn't want Thomas there and takes him on because of a debt to Spook.

Things happen as Thomas is on his own and struggling to deal with a drunken bully. There is action and witches and deadly threats. Delaney continues to tell a good story and I like the characters. More and conflict get introduced with deadly threats, worries over Alice, and Thomas growing into a teenager.

1. SPOILER. Alice is announced as The Fiend's human daughter. This was no surprise.
2. The Dark is not like The Dark Side of The Force. There is not a all encompassing presence that forces people. It's not quite like the Dark in Susan Cooper's series.
3. Susan Cooper is still alive at 84. I think she was married to a famous actor. Let me check... yeah, she was married to Hume Cronyn from 1996-2003. Jessica Tandy died in 1994 so I guess a two year break is socially acceptable before remarriage.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Heard: "Dead I May Well Be" by Adrian McKinty

Heard: Dead I May Well Be by Adrian McKinty, 2003, downloaded from Wisconsin Digital Library.

This past summer Don Winslow went on a long term Twitter fan boy rave for McKinty. I've enjoyed the McKinty novels but the latest and greatest novel, The Chain, was out and I took this one. This is an earlier novel and not as strong as his other work.

A crime novel to a prison novel to a revenge novel. Michael Forsythe had to leave Northern Ireland after getting kicked off the dole. He moved to New York to get a job with a distant relative. He's had a few jobs but now works as muscle for an America-Irish mobster nicknamed Darkey. Michael is 20-years-old, banging the boss's much younger girlfriend, not enjoying his work that much, an autodidact, and has a dishonorable British Army discharge because who the hell expects a mouthy 16-year-old to get along in the damn Army?

It's 1992 and Michael lives in a mob provided shithole apartment in Harlem. Michael is a friendly fella and gets along with most people. When a fellow strong-armer gets beat into the hospital another Irishman (actually from Ireland) crook gets the small crew together pledging revenge on the guy who did the beating. Michael and Co. bust into his apartment and give him a Northern Ireland (or IRA) six pack.: a bullet each to the ankles, knees and elbows.

Michael did some small time crime and IRA hanging-around before he joined the Army, but he is sickened by his participation in the shooting. But, Darkey is very very pleased that the young guys took the initiative to defend turf and reputation. Things go on and after honset-to-God shoot out Michael is praised again by Darkey. Michael is wary about Darkey, especially since Michael is porking Darkey's girlfriend Bridget. But everything seems okey-dokey and Michael and three others are sent on a job to Mexico.

The novel then takes a sharp turn into prison drama, Until this point the novel had been a standard "immigrant in the urban jungle". NYC crime rates in 1992 are through the roof. Michael hangs out with his Serbian building superintendent. Michael wants to make more money. Michael collects extortion and gambling payments. Michael does plenty of drinking with Irish crooks and meets women in bars. When four of the men are arrested for drug smuggling they have no trial and are stuck in dank Mexican Prison. Under horrible conditions a couple men die and Michael and a pal make a daring escape.

Only Michael survives the escape and somehow survives a hurricane and days and says of stumbling through a jungle in Southern Mexico. He pledges revenge on Darkey and Darkey's lieutenants and makes his way back to NYC after a lot of travel and an amputated foot.

Screw it. I'm not going to give any more plot rundown. The story is enjoyable but the split in the story from NYC to Mexico to NYC revenge be-bopped around too much. McKinty also has longer passages with Michael considering life, the universe, and the meaning of it all. I did not care for that stuff so much. But, with an audio book you can kinda zone out on the boring stuff.

I'd rate this novel as decent but recommend reading McKinty's later work like the Sean Duffy series which is much better.

1. I am fairly certain I've read or heard 2-3 of the Duffy novels but only see one in my notes.
2. this novel had me thinking of Cycle of Violence and Of Wee Sweetie Mice and Men by Colin Bateman. Irish crime novels with lots of humor. I read one or two more Bateman novels then could not find ones. I just checked and he published regularly for about 15 years. According to my magic internet box Bateman may have started TV or movie scripting and has not had a novel since 2014.

Hardcover: "The Dry" by Jane Harper

Hardcover: The Dry by Jane Harper, 2016, 9781250105608.

I read a blurb on this from someone and tried the book out. This is well, well above average. Some excellent writing, pacing, and characters. The sense of place was not as strong as I was hoping for - rural farm town in Australia - but still quite enjoyable. Besides, no matter what Harper may have written about the land I will also think of the two lane blacktop and wheat fields of Mad Max.

Aaron Falk is a federal cop living in Melbourne who investigates financial crimes. He is about 36 years old and has not been back to his hometown in 20 years. We find out why Falk and his single dad left town before Falk graduated high school and, I must see, Harper does an excellent job telling the story. Harper did not tease things out too long for a Big Shocker Reveal! at the end. We already know a girl was killed and Falk fled forever. Harper as much focus on the contemporary crime and Falk's assistance with a sub rosa investigation.

Anyhoo. Here are more details. Falk's best pal from high school has been murdered in his farmhouse along with his wife and ten-year-old son. The family's infant daughter was spared. The dead man's father calls Falk up and demands Falk show to the funeral with a threat of "I know he lied for you."

Falk drives the several hours to town. The dead man's parents want Falk to look into things. After all Falk was on TV for taking down that investment crook, right? Falk makes friends with the local cop (one of only two) and helps ask around, snoops the crime scene, so on, so forth.

The police procedural plot moves alongside Falk's memories of former neighbors, the same neighbors who accused him of murdering a friend who was found drowned in a river with her pockets filled with rocks. Falk and his father left town in disgrace.

Falk has a few mixed feelings about most townspeople but does sport a boner for a hot chick and former pal. After his unpleasant hometown experience and his father's death Falk has crated no lasting romances or close friendships over the past 15 years. He does well at work but his last long-term girlfriend left him when he seemed like an empty suit. Falk sure doesn't want to stick around - he was hoping to leave immediately after the funeral. But, the dead mate's mother was often a surrogate mom to motherless Falk. A hug from her is a reminder of everything lacking for 30+ years. He wants to say yes to her and he wants to avoid the trouble the dead mate's dad threatens.

Give it a try. Really good stuff.