Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Doctor Who Yeti: "Web of Fear"

Doctor Who Yeti: Web of Fear by Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln (according to the internets), downloaded from Wisconsin Digital Library.

Another audiobook that is the audio from a Doctor Who story arc with added descriptive narration. The audio quality on this sucks, sucks, sucks. Don't bother unless you are hard core.

The Doctor and his pals jamie and Victoria land in the London Underground. The place is dark and abandoned and locked up. Meanwhile, Professor Travers is back. He was in a Abominable Snowman arc - which I actually listened to a couple years ago! - but is now 40 years older for this 1967 time setting. He brought home to London a mechanical Yeti or two. The Yeti monsters were controlled by a remote device and have now wandered off to do something or other.

The Doctor and Co. find out the Underground has been set with explosives for demolition. The Yeti are wandering around killing people. London has been evacuated. Some sort of spider webby fungus is growing on everything. Soldiers and the Professor are the only people around. Blah, blah, blah.

Like I said above, skip this one. The old TV sound goes up in down in volume and with sharp bursts of sound. If you want a big rundown on the plot you can check the internet fan peoples.

Back dating this to December 31 because I heard it in 2019. Written on January 9, 2020.

WHO Audio: "Prisoner of the Daleks" by Trevor Baxendale

WHO Audio: Prisoner of the Daleks by Trevor Baxendale, 2009, Wisconsin Digital Library.

An original novel and enjoyable.

The Doctor is by himself when the Tardis makes a goofy landing on a abandoned planet that was once used as a refueling place for starships. When poking around he gets locked into a room. Six days later the small crew of a privateer lands and lets him out. Then some Daleks show up.

The Daleks are there to EXTERMINATE. The spaceship crew are there as Dalek bounty hunters. the Doctor is there to be the Doctor.

When a Dalek follows the crew onto their ship a crew member is killed before the Dalek can be frozen and ultimately defeated and killed. These is immediate distrust and dislike of the Doctor by the rough guy crew who end up blaming him for their crewmate's death.

The Doctor does not ease the relationship by advocating against torturing the surviving Dalek squid-thing-creature after he is pulled from his robot shell. It doesn't matter because everything is a set-up anyway as the Doctor and crew arrive at the remains of a destroyed planet, are captured by new Daleks, and discover they have stumbled into a trap for EXTERMINATION.

We get the irrepressible Doctor. The gruff ship's captain. The gruff ex-soldier crewman. The tech crewman. The last surviving member of her planet crewmember. Dalek X who is the Dalek's supreme inquisitor. Plus some: scary Daleks, some sort of ghost creatures, a planet cut in half, humans worked to death as miners, a massive Dalek command ship, more details on the Human-Dalek War.

All fun. All better than the many WHO TV story arcs I have listened to on audio. Those TV shows with descriptive narration can have really spotty audio.


Irish Audio: "Gun Street Girl" by Adrian McKinty

Irish Audio: Gun Street Girl by Adrian McKinty, 2015, download from Wisconsin Digital Library.

I enjoyed this quote a bit. The narrator's American accents were pretty awful though. Accents so awful that I enjoyed them.

I just read my notes from reading McKinty's The Cold, Cold Ground and that novel set me on the same path as this novel. I started reading rereading about The Troubles and all the craziness of of 20+ years of simmering civil war. I had forgotten something McKinty covered in that novel which is that the head of IRA's squad to find, torture, and murder informants (The Nutting Squad) was himself an informant for the English.

Sean Duffy is the 2nd ranking cop at the Carrickfergus police station in Northern Ireland. He has some privilege with his rank but is called out by a colleague to help out with a murder. There is a dispute over jurisdiction and after Duffy sorts that issue he gets involved with the investigation of a murdered married couple and their now missing adult son. The son turns up dead as a cliff diving suicide and a note claiming responsibility for the murder. Duffy and Co. are still suspicious.

More things happen and Duffy and Co. visit England to investigate the son's background. The run into stonewalling and screw-ups. They find Son had a background in weapons. They run into Special Branch. They run into Short Brothers of Northern Ireland which is the last remaining manufacturer of any note in NI. Short Brothers is a weapons manufacturer. Short Brothers is missing Javelin missiles (a super fancy and high tech anti-tank missile).

OK. That's all good and fine. McKinty puts all this standard police procedural stuff together with skill. Secrets are revealed. Danger is threatened. Mysterious people appear. The fun stuff is that McKinty is taking real events and shaping those into the story.

We get the IRA goons. The Ulster Defense goons. The Ulster Volunteer Force goons. The British government goons. The true believers. The con men posing as true believers. The patriots that are nothing but goons and con men.

All of the above includes a look at 1985 NI and England. Thatcher wields all the power and the recession is grinding most people. Short Brothers stays open only by the grace of the government's support and contracts. NI is over a decade into the active war of The Troubles and the English seem perfectly happen to let the blood flow. As one character says, the 25% of the IRA's men are informants or otherwise compromised by the English. The English know most of what is going on with the other side but also participate in keeping it going.

Really great stuff and after a some good guy losses the bad guys pay a price. Of course, the bad guys at the top never really get in trouble.

1. An Oliver North appearance in a character named Connelly. In real life: North traveled to Iran under a Irish passport. McKinty ties in Reagan's arms dealing with Iran. During the same time period there were arrests over missile technology being sold to embargoed South Africa.
2. Short Brothers in N.I. had a simulator stolen in the '80s and Javelin and Blowpipe parts went missing. The novel has Javelin missile system missing-but-actually-stolen for resale to embargoed countries that would then reverse engineer the systems.
3.  The fact that 25% of the IRA were informants or compromised one some way. That the English had turned high ranking IRA men. Never mind all the state sanctioned murders by English soldiers and policemen who moonlighted with terrorist groups.
4. The IRA was no better and would claim the murders of people like Jean McCanville were justified killings of spies during wartime - McCannville who was the 38-year-old widow of 10 children - and then cry foul when armed IRA men would be shot down during IRA attacks instead of being arrested. 5. Claims of national security to hide misdeeds.
6. Of course Reagan knew what was going on with Iran Contra. Don't be fucking dense.
7. Duffy's personal car is a BMW. He checks the undercarriage for bombs every time he needs to drive.
8. Glock love.
9. Pharmaceutical cocaine love.

Paper: "Tijuana Mean" by Jesse James Kennedy

Paper: Tijuana Mean by Jesse James Kennedy, 2019, 9781724161628.

Someone online plugged Kennedy's first novel Missouri Homegrown and it was violent anti-heroes in the Ozarks. I enjoyed that novel a decent amount and I bought this one for work.

Be aware that if you don't want read this if you don't want the bad guys to win. Most everyone here is a bad guy except for one or two FBI guys. I suppose Kennedy putting his trio of killers in narcocorrido land makes sense because this is the same thing but (all) fictional.

Anyhoo. Jimbo, Jay and Jack McKay killed off a bunch of Police Officers and narco traffickers in the last novel and fled their Missouri marijuana farm. Tijuana has the three teaming up with a Mexican drug lord after a truce at the end of the last novel. The four of them are driving cross country to get to Mexico. Along the way they steal some cars and murder a couple state troopers.

Meanwhile, their cousin WhatsHerFace is back in MO and taking over their marijuana outfit. She takes in a couple young cousins and has to fight off a new biker gang that is moving in to fill the vacuum left by the McKays.

The FBI undercover from the last novel and her partner are drinking too much and paired with a new supervisor who is chasing the multi-murderer Mckays. FBI Undercover Woman has the hots for one of the McKay men.

Things happen as the McKays participate in a private MMA fight. Kill people. Do heroin, alcohol, weed, and pills. Ambush narcos with IEDs. Continue to team up with the Mexican narco as the narco battles against his own uncle for supremacy in Tijuana.

There is:
1. Lots of violence.
2. Lots of swagger and boasting.
3. Lots of both casual and calculated cruelty.
4. Child abuse.

This is a popcorn and soda story. This is not Rust Belt drama or Daniel Woodrell family trouble.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Another Spook: "Clash of the Demons" by Joseph Delaney

Another Spook: Clash of the Demons by Joseph Delaney, 2008 (in the UK), 

I drove five Boy Scouts in my van up to Black River Falls. Another two Scouts rode in a second vehicle. I wanted to play this audiobook but got to worrying that the 6th and 7th graders might get spooked. These are young adult novels but I think the gruesomeness gets amped up for each successive novel.

Thomas Ward is just shy of 15-years-old. He is alone at the Spook's house while the Spook is away on spook business. He awakes to see Alice - sent away by Spook at the end of the last novel - appearing in tom's mirror and warning him of a maenad about to attack. Tom doesn't even know what that is but grabs his staff and silver chain to investigate.

The house is still protected by the Spook's pet boggart but the boaggart is missing when a witch attacks Tom outside the house. Tom capture her with the chain and shortly after the boggat appears and thrashes the would be assassin to death. Strange things are-a-brewing.

Spook returns home. Spook ponders. Spook finds out the boggart was drugged by a trough of tainted blood. Spook and Tom return to Tom's farm to meet Tom's mother. Tom's mother is returning from Greece and is recruiting local County witches to return with her to Greece and fight against an ally of The Fiend.

Does all this makes sense to you? Don't worry. It's a fantasy adventure novel and the tales move fast and are not too difficult to catch up on. The basics are that Tom is a teen apprentice, his profession is distrusted by many people, and Tom and Alice are not an item but have that weird teen thing going where they are friends and sorta-siblings but other smoochy- smoochy things may be happening. 

Advances in the story: Spook is against anything or one that may work with Dark magic. He has to set aside those long held rules to team up with Tom's mother and the County witches to fight in Greece. Tom and Alice have to fight against newly learned Dark parentage that mark them as suspect to hardliners like the Spook. More characters are killed. There are scary monsters. There is lots of blood magic and the witches like to drink blood and use body parts for magic.

1. I have really enjoyed the series.
2. Thomas and Co. travel to English cities are their way to Greece. I suppose the setting was never in doubt but I don't think Delaney used real city names before.
3. The stories are presented in such a way that this a real history. The concept being that Tom and the Spook are fighting evil. There is a buildup to a final battle to vanquish evil. That final battle defeating the fiend and evil would therefore put an end to evil, including witches, boggarts, and all the rest. We then end up in the modern era where stories of witches are seen as fairy and folk tales.

ebook: "How the Dead Live" by Derek Raymond

ebook: How the Dead Live by Derek Raymond, 1986 (no date for ebook reprint), 9781612190150.

Well, this is the 2nd Raymond novel I have read in the factory series and life in Thatcher England was dark and dreary.

Getting up to date: The Factory series novels by Raymond are well known and had recent reprints. All were written in the early to id-1980s and feature a nameless police detective Protagonist from department A14 - Unexplained Deaths - investigates cases over five novels. He is single and has no manners, patience, or family. He's a nihilist with a hopeful streak.

Protagonist is sent on a 90 minutes drive from London to investigate the case of a missing small-town woman whose case was set aside by the local cop shop. Protagonist never seems to be in a good mood but maybe that is just my reading. He is proud of his job and reminds people that he may be a jerk, but he'll do the same thorough work if the complainers get killed or go missing.

Anyhoo. Protagonist arrives in town, starts looking around, finds out the local cop shop is staffed by dicks and an crooked chief. He finds out the missing woman had not been seen in months and used to walk around town with a veil over the lower part of her face. Protagonist really dislikes a few of the people. Protagonist really likes a few of the people. Protagonist is always getting in trouble with his work superiors and will never get a promotion.

A dark and deep novel with plenty of booze and uncaring people. Economic calamity with Tahtcher's "Fuck you" to the working class. Every day has bother world wars front and center: Protagonist a child of the war with a Army father, war veterans or both wars living in the small town, evidence of how the war effected everything and still drives many decisions and behaviors.

Let's not pretend Protagonist is there to help and care for strangers. He feels sorry for a few people but he is mostly shut down from his emotions and the things he sees and the people he deals usually spark anger rather than empathy. He hates bullies. He hates conmen. He hates goons.

Give the series a try. Raymond has some great storytelling. I just gloss over the overly long philosophical posts as Protagonist recalls a londg dead girlfriend who used to speak about life, destiny and meaning.

1. This got me thinking about the Rule of Law and how important it is for society to run well. People are held to account and the state, not the victims, are the one who make the process fair. Police Officers make human mistakes but their honesty and dedication are vital. It also makes me remember how the Rule of Law fails and the super rich and powerful get away with all sorts of shit, shit, shit.

Audio: "Fire Witness" by Lars Kepler

Audio: Fire Witness by Lars Kepler, 2011 (for Sweden, I think), 2018 (maybe, Overdirve gives goody dates that don't always match pub dates), downloaded form Wisconsin Digital Library.

I read a couple recommendations for the latest Kepler book so I took this one. Nordic crime and police procedural written by a husband and wife team. Native Finn Joona Linna is a Swedish cop on a task force that handles murders nationwide. He investigates a double murder and the resultant kidnapping of a 5-year-old.

The novel's writing has that Nordic matter-of-fact style. Different than a noir-style with straightforward facts with minimal description. The characters go through emotional troubles but the authors don't dwell on emotion in the same way as writers in traditional Anglo countries. People are sad, terrified, lonely, and in love but the vibe is different. I feel the same when reading the Swede series by Henning Mankell (1 read), Sjowall and Wahloo (most read), Jens Lapidus (4 read).

Anyhoo. This is the third novel in the series and Joona has been suspended since the last novel because he is suspected of telling some crooks/political troublemakers that a police raid was coming. Joona's boss asks Joona to go north where a home for troubled teens has had a double murder with a teenager and adult counselor beaten to death. Joona will have no legal authority, he's just there to guide and help.

Things happen. The local investigator is grouchy and doesn't know he is out of his depth. Joona is endlessly polite but won't be stopped or dissuaded. The teen girls at the home have some serious issues and don't cooperate with interviews. The therapist husband of the dead woman is deeply distressed and put under psychiatric care. A fake medium in Stockholm starts seeing a "ghost" and thinks the ghost is the victim come to tell the Stockholm woman what happened.

Joona starts hunting down a missing 15-year-old from the home. That girl's room has lots of bllod evidence and the teen ran into the woods sometime in the early morning of the murder.. The teen then chanced upon a car and stole the car when the driver was taking a piss break. Inside the car is a 5-year-old boy. Both teen suspect and boy go missing.

There are forensic investigations of the crime scene and forensic  psychology. Joona wants to stay on scene but has no local authority and wants to chase the girl down. The local cop is a jackass. Joona is worried for the missing boy. So on and So forth with Joona driving around rural and urban Sweden.

The story was a good one and the characters interesting. The novel touches on a few tropes and genres but always it's own thing. There is:
  • Renegade cop who doesn't follow orders. 
  • Out-of-town expert cop who is shunned by local cops. 
  • The sad, mourning cop missing his long lost family and partner and unable to commit to a new woman. 
  • Troubled teen on the run.
  • Serial killer that his hidden the crimes within everyday life events.
Initially I kept expecting story to end soon as the chase for the 15-year-old was on. Then saw I was only halfway through the novel. The killer is an easy guess. The detective's pursuit is enjoyable.

1. Rich people being uber rich. Reminded me of the Jens Lapidus novels of rich people who are awful, awful people but always getting away with murder.
2. Poor children being abandoned. (Reminded me of the ultra right assholes who blame immigrants for everything. As if white people don't kill, cheat, steal, and rape.)
3. A subplot about Joona's family that is fairly unbelievable subplot. The subplot has Joona solving a serial killer case in a previous book. The serial killer is in prison but threatens Joona's family. Joona's former partner and family end up dead so Joona sends his wife and daughter, fakes their deaths, and with promises to never contact one another. Ditching his wife and daughter instead of fleeing with them? Man, I call bullshit.

Paperback: "Too Many Curses" by A. Lee Martinez

Paperback: Too Many Curses by A. Lee Martinez, 2008, 9780765318350.

I read Gil's All Fright Diner shortly after it came out in 2005 and thought it was really great. I read several other Martinez novels after that and then got off track. This novel was weeded off the library shelves within the last year or two so I bought it.

My advice: skip it and read Gil's All Fright or Nameless Witch. This has character after character and doing thing after thing and it was too much. Sure, I finished the novel but had to tune out each new character who popped out.

Short version: Nessy is in charge of Margle the Horrendous massive and magical castle. Margle is truly horrendous and over the centuries has populated the castle with the ghosts and trapped souls of those he has killed. A few thousand different spells and curses keep things together.  When Margle is killed through his own misadventure Nessy is left to take care of things. Nessy is a bit obsessive compulsive and wants to keep the castle and all her pals running smoothly.

Longer-ish Version: I don't know, man. Stuff happens. When one famous wizard dies other wizards usually show up to take everything they can find. Nessy wants to survive and take care of her cursed pals and ghosts. The bi-bopping around from character to character in the first half of the novel really dragged things out.

1. It looks like Martinez'z Constance Verity series has been optioned and will be filming. But, who knows? Names get listed to all sorts of media projects and things never happen.

Australia Ebook Crime: "Wyatt" by Garry Disher

Australia Ebook Crime: Wyatt by Garry Disher, 2010 and 2011, download from Wisconsin Digital Library.

I forgot about listing this novel. I finished it back in October or November.

I was trying to find the original pub date of this novel and everyone in the damn crime fiction world describes this novel as an Australian Parker. Well, yeah, that was what I was going to say. What's more this is the seventh novel in the series. I was looking for something else on the digital library and saw this. So I took it.

Wyatt is all sorts of Parker: a loner, suspicious, very careful, violent only when needed, and a multi-purpose crook. The novel is written in the sparse style used by Westlake/Stark. Wyatt is back in Melbourne after a years long absence. His rip-off of a shipyard bribery scheme goes haywire and he gets barely any money from the score. What's more, two of his hidden stashes of cash and weapons have disappeared through redevelopment during his years away.

Wyatt needs dough but experience has taught him to only work with professional thieves and take on realistic jobs. Of course things go wrong as Wyatt is double-crossed and other cops and crooks insert themselves into the situation.

Short take: I enjoyed the novel. The characters were okay. The plotting was pretty decent. The atmosphere and setting were fun. There is a dirty cop. Scuzzy diamond merchants. Wyatt's backstabbing pal and the pal's volatile and violent girlfriend. Unemotional Wyatt's unexpected and unwanted love interest. A French killer. All sorts of interesting crime drama with Wyatt overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Longer take: The setting was a bit distracting because I kept cutting away from the story to look up the locations Disher had Wyatt and Co. traveling to and from. One scene has them in small park and Google Maps lets you zoom in and out and have street level views of the place. I just tried finding the park again - called Reserves over there - and cannot find it. I thought it was on Toorak highway. maybe my phone has a history, let me see... Nope. I cannot find it.

1. I recall the bass player for INXS being named something like Gary Garry. Let me check on that... Nope, but close. Garry Gary Beers with some sort of story behind the name that you'll have to figure out yourself.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Letters Book: "Address Unknown" by Kathrine Kressman Taylor

Letters Book: Address Unknown by Katherine Kressman Taylor, 1938, 2001 printing, 9780743412711.

Foreword says: Woman writes a series of fictional letters that are published in Story magazine in 1938. Immediately popularity. The story is then printed as a book an is a bestseller.

Taylor was Kathrine Kressman. She ran across an article saying how some US students returned from Germany and wrote to friends in Germany. The Germans said, "Don't make fun of Hitler in your letters. We will be arrested." Kressman pondered on that situation for awhile and created two friends and business partners who co-own an art dealership on the west coast.

One gallery owner returns to Germany. His U.S. dollars make him a wealthy man in depressed Germany and he has a mansion and servants. He enters high society and joins the nazis. His Jewish friend and partner cannot figure out what is happening to his pal who now spouts the party line on Jews being dirt.

Things happen and the German refuses to assist his friend's actress sister in Germany. The business relationship is dissolved. The sister is pursued and killed by the rotten, filthy, stinking, no good nazis. The Jewish gallery owner starts writing letters to the German referencing Moscow, money transfers, traditional Jewish names, and weird stats that could be code. The German disappears.

Very brief book. Reading the Foreword took almost as long as the book.

1. I won't capitalize nazi.

Finally Done: "The Hilliker Curse" by James Ellroy

Finally Done: The Hilliker Curse by James Ellroy, 2010, 9780307593504

Well... Ellroy is even more fucked up than I realized.

Yes, you too may end up a psychological mess when your mother is raped, murdered, and dumped on the side of the road when you are only ten-years-old. Especially if you are then sent off to a shiftless, alcoholic father and receive little to no guidance on grief and life.

Ellroy's tales of women troubles. Starting out as a young peeping tom and underwear burglar. Then a  drug addict and all around creep. He gets cleaned up and employed as a caddy. Moves East and starts selling novels and marries the first time. He then self destructs a few times along the way from marriages in New York, Kansas City, and California.

This book started out fantastic. The writing was superb and Ellroy admits to everything and seems to know himself very well. But, I suppose that knowledge was earned only after all the screw-ups, dangerous infatuations and obsessions he has for different women. How his fervent and unreasonable demands for intimacy are all wrapped up in grief and loss for his mother. Ellroy goes into all sorts of explanations and reasoning for his behavior but as the years went by he kept doing it.

I am presuming that after writing his first autobio, My Dark Places, going through more and more trouble and writing this book allowed him some insight into his own behavior. After all, if your normal is craziness how do you know?

At book's end Ellroy is in a relationship with a woman he partly wooed away from her husband. Ellroy writes that the latest love infatuation already had a dead marriage.  I'll have to believe him only because the Ellroy's the only one talking. His behavior creeps me out and I don't see how she is falling for it. Ellroy has tons of charm and delightful gab. He is a great showman and has a good amount of intensity that bears out in those author photos of his stare melting a hole through the camera lens. I guess some chicks dig that rather than run.

He's obsessive. He's weird. His main hobby is to sit in the dark, listen to Beethoven, and think. 

I ran out of steam in the last 40 pages. He ends the novel in loving bliss with his latest woman but it just feels like one more trip around the block. I wore out. I'm not sure how he does not.

1. My wife and I went to a luncheon at the 1998 PLA conference in Kansas City. We were waiting in line at the book signing table and he told a person ahead of us that, "I write by longhand. That's why my right hand is bigger and stronger." My joke was, "Oh, that's why." I did not make the joke to him but I thought the gag was hilarious.
2. I enjoy sitting and thinking and listening to music. But, I do more than just that.

Comics Comp: "The Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics" edited by Paul Gravett

Comics Comp: The Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics edited by Paul Gravett, 2008, 9780762433940.

I see Mammoth Book of- and immediately think of Maxim Jakubowski and all the mystery compilations he edited. When I saw he published a novel, It's You That I Want To Kiss, in 1997 I bought it for my library and read it. I recall being disappointed in the book. I do recall the cover though. Solid colors and an image of a cut open fruit. Let me test that memory...  nope, I am wrong. That was a different color.

This book is a collection of comics from the 1930s to the pub date. Some neat stuff and a wide range of artwork. I finished reading this a while a back and don't recall much about any individual stories.

Dashiell Hammett's Secret Agent X-9 was well told and I like that kind of art.
An 87th Precinct story suffered from the poor artwork.
Neat to read a Ms. Tree comic after having heard about them for a while.

1. Regarding Ms. Tree and Max Alan Collins. Collins really stepped in it when trying to make a joke and really ticking off and offending a bunch of people. After reading his posts and commentary over the years I have a decent amount of faith that Collins is not a prick. That includes him not being any of the many despicable -ists that are out there. I was impressed and happy to see he soon realized his mistake and understood the effect his comment had.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Comic Book: "Rick and Morty Vs. Dungeons and Dragons" by Patrick Rothfuss and Jim Zub

Comic Book: Rick and Morty Vs. Dungeons and Dragons by Patrick Rothfuss and Jim Zub, 2019, 9781684054169

Morty thinks gamers get laid. So he goes to a game store, meets a hot girl who plays Dungeons and Dragons, and Morty lies about his gamer experience. Morty is invited to join Hot Girl's Saturday night D&D game. Since Morty figures he may have a chance with the girl he needs to learn all about the game.  Rick finds out Morty is into D&D, gets excited, invites Morty to join up.

Adventures ensue. Things go sideways. Dungeons. Dragons. Monsters. Spells. The entire family ends up in alternate world that is a D&D world.

Skip it if you are not a fan of the television program.

1. I like the artwork.
2. This is the only book by Rothfuss I have read. Where does that guy live? Eau Claire? Wausau? Stevens Point?

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Popular: "The Chain" by Adrian McKinty

More Sounds: The Chain by Adrian McKinty, 2019,

Don Winslow was praising McKinty to high heaven for the past few months. Winslow  enjoyed McKinty's work enough that he championed this last novel and McKinty scored a decent publishing deal that led to the bestseller list.  This was pretty a decent novel but almost nothing can match the kind of blurbs that McKinty received. I just don't rate this book that high.

Rachel is divorced, has a 15-year-old daughter named Kylie, and has been cancer free for one year. She is on her way to a follow up oncologist appointment when a woman calls to say Kylie has been kidnapped. After that call Rachel receives another call by a computer disguised voice representing the Chain. Rachel has to pay $25k and kidnap another child for Kylie to go free. If Rachel does not pay or kidnap another child then Kylie will be murdered.

The Chain requires the kidnap victims's families to have no association with police, reporters, or politicians. Everything is kept silent because the parents are forced into a violent crime and are under threat and the coercive force of The Chain. They can be recalled at any time to follow, investigate, or even murder people that The Chain wants information on.

The whole operation depends on The Chain as being practically omnipotent: we know who you are, what you do, who you talk to, where you go. Your entire family can be killed whenever we want.

Anyhoo. Rachel cannot tell her chatty ex-husband what is occurring, so on her own she starts scrambling to raise money and search social media for likely victims. Her former brother-in-law (and unemployed junkie Veteran) helps later on.

McKinty lays it thick on the idea that a parent will do anything for a child. And it is all believable. The Chain gives a timeline, clear threats, and people willing to carry out the threats. Of course everything turns out well in the end but you never know who may get killed off along the way.

1. Bitcoin love.
2. Many Gun Guy gripes on accuracy.
3. Old Volvo love.
4. Skip the novel if you cannot read about children being attacked, threatened, abused, etc. Those parts made me very uncomfortable. McKinty raised some surefire anger at the way the kids were treated and how the bad guy masterminds were sociopathic shits.

Crime Sounds: "Charcoal Joe" by Walter Mosely

Crime Sounds: Charcoal Joe by Walter Mosley, 2016, Wisconsin Digital Library download.

I keep putting James Ellroy's name in for Mosley. Mainly because I was simultaneously reading Ellroy's memoir and also because Mosley and Ellroy tread a lot of the same ground. Both writers mine 1950s and 60s Los Angeles and work with characters who are both noble and pragmatic. The characters know that crooks and big business run most of the world. Truth, justice, and honor are often a sham. But, Mosley's characters have the extra trouble of white people forcing black people under society's thumb.  Ellroy and Mosley do such a great job of character POV.

If you're unfamiliar with the series: Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins grew up in a rough part of Houston, served in the Army during WW2, and has lived in Los Angeles since the war. He's worked various jobs at aircraft factories. as a school custodian, and a landlord but the stories revolve around his job as an unlicensed PI who can work in the black neighborhoods that white people cannot.

I've been reading and listening to the Easy Rawlins series out of order. In fact it has been five years since I read any of the novels. Charcoal Joe is set in 1968 and Easy's older adopted son is now married and moved away. His teenage, adopted daughter Feather is in a private high school and Easy is ready to propose to his girlfriend. Things go bad of course. Easy's girlfriend decides to take up with an ex-boyfriend and Easy is gutted.

Mouse then shows up asking if Easy can take a PI job. I've always counted Mouse as one of the scariest characters in fiction but he does not show up much in this book. Mouse is an intermediary for a black gangster that he has has never heard of, which seems a bit far fetched knowing Easy's many past cases and contacts. But, Los Angeles is a big city.

Anyhoo. Big-time gangster Charcoal Joe wants Easy to help out a 22-year-old PhD who was arrested for murder. Things happen and easy has to track down the correct people, face off against killers, tamp down his anger, conquer his fears, so on, so forth.

I've not much to say. Easy is an interesting character as he navigates several worlds of black/white, rich/poor, and his love and family lives are always challenging him. There is sex, violence, and Easy almost gets even against the bad guys and brings some sort of justice against the people or parts of society hat almost always get away scott free.

1. .25 caliber love.
2. All men's suits are described by cut and color.
3. I want to stick an extra "e" in Mosley.
4. Mouse is one of Easy's few lifelong companions and Mouse is a psychopath. Easy has been alone since 8 years old. All his relationships have been made - there is no family. Hell, Mouse murdered his own father.

Hardcover: "Bull Mountain" by Brian Panowich

Hardcover: Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich, 2015, 9780425282281.

Rural crime novel set in modern Georgia. I enjoyed the book but I thought it went a little off the rails at the end.

The dust cover lists this as Panowich's first novel. There are some blink-and-miss'em characters that just don't add much to the story but are there just the same. I wonder if this is one of those first novels that started out bloated so the author had to cut the story back and kept some of his favorite characters somewhere in the story. Or, I don't know what I'm talking about.

Anyhoo. Clayton Burroughs married young and did not follow the family crime business. One day his wife mentioned how the long-lasting and crooked County Sheriff was retiring. "Maybe you should run for the office."  "Yeah," thinks Clayton, "Fuck it. Why not?" and Clayton wins election. Clayton gets elected because everyone rightly fears his family's last name. But Clayton, unlike Nixon, really is not a crook.

Clayton's family has been making and running moonshine, marijuana, and meth for a century or so. But, with Clayton turning into a decent Sheriff who follows in the law there has been a bit of a territorial truce between him and his family. Bull Mountain is a massive tract of land now ruled by Clayton's older brother, Halford. That brotherly relationship has never been strong, Halford is ten years older, and Clayton was disowned by the family when joining the police. Halford controls the mountain and Clayton patrols the valley and towns.

The peaceful balance has lasted for several years. Their father died under questionable circumstances, likely killed by Halford, and the middle brother was just killed in a raid by the Feds. Clayton has let the Mountain run itself and the Feds periodically come in trying to clean the mountain up. The Feds always fail and go home and harbor deep suspicions about Clayton's integrity and familial loyalty.

In rolls an ATF agent (or is he DEA?) with a deal for Clayton. ATF Guy says, "I've got a deal. I'm looking to bust some Florida bikers who traffic with your bro. You get your bro to roll on these biker trash and he'll get a free ride. Your brother can retire in peace with no one trying to swindle or murder him."

Clayton usually stays out of the Fed V. Halford disputes but the ATF Guy gives a unique pitch and seems sincere. Clayton has not spoken to his brother in years and his appearance and the middle brother's funeral is very uncomfortable. The brotherly discussion is not brotherly and events start rolling along.

Spoilers ahead.
So, I think the book was pretty decent. But, like mentioned above it feels like an abbreviatd family crime epic.
  • There are longish flashbacks to Clayton's murderous father, grandfather, and Halford's viciousness and ruthlessness. (When Clayton is about 10-years-old halford brings Clayton along as Halford goes to murder a moonshiner working without the family's permission and does so by burning the man to death.) 
  • Those extra characters have lifelong ties to Clayton but flit in and out. 
  • ATF Guy turns out to be the offspring of a young prostitute who was deformed after beaten and cut by the dad in the early '70s.
 Give it a shot if you enjoy rural crime stuff, which I do. Hell, the novel won or was nominated for several fancy awards.