Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Pandemic Audio: "Sunrise Highway" by Peter Blauner

Pandemic Audio: Sunrise Highway by Peter Blauner, 2018, downloaded off Hoopla.

Nice tie-in to the last couple of Reed Farrell Coleman novels and the true crime book about what appears to be a serial killer of prostitutes working on Long Island, Lost Girls by Robert Kolker.

I'm guessing that Blauner took the real life case(s) of missing and murdered women on Long Island and spun this story.  NYPD detective Lourdes Robles is assigned a case of a corpse in a river. The river is in her jurisdiction. The corpse is likely from Long Island. Robles detects and the Suffolk County PD does not cooperate. Robles is often told how Suffolk does things their way.

This is well done with a sharp look at racism and sexism. A self-aware but deluded serial killer. Local and regional corruption. A serial killer who spends his life looking for ways to manipulate and blackmail the people he needs. A serial killer who has been killing for 30 years.

Really nicely done. We know the killer fairly early and there is a struggle by Lourdes to continue the investigation into a politically connected and very savvy man. Plenty of food for thought about trust and loyalty. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Pandemic: "The Annex" by Russell James

Pandemic: The Annex by Russell James, 2002, 9780786239313.

James has not published many novels. I read Pick Any Title when it came out in 2002-ish and then forgot the damn title. The two common names of Russell and James had me confusing the order and when searching for his works I was replacing them with other names. His web presence is not easy to track down either. Anyhoo. I enjoy his dark work.

Joanna is 20-years-old and engaged to 42-year-old architect Milo in the early '80s (or about that, I cannot recall an exact year). Milo has a man Friday named Florian. Joanna is both appalled and attracted to the haughty Florian. Florian is young with a handsome body but his face is scarred on one side.

Joanna's ex-boyfriend shows up at her apartment and demands to be back in her life. He is persistent. He threatens her impeding marriage. Joanna is fearful that the boyfriend could sour her relationship with Milo. Joanna asks Florian to scare the ex off. Sooooo... we know this will end poorly.

Many things happen and I am amazed at how much of Joanna's life is spent navigating guys who want sex. Or guys who dismiss her as a skirt. Or guys who may just rape her. Florian, meanwhile, cares little for consequences and cannot be reasoned with. Milo is a decent guy but would Mr. Successful stand to handle her scandal?

Joanna grew up in housing estates and wants stability, money, a future. She can have all that with Milo and keeps maneuvering and lying to keep what she can.

Pandemic: "Saturday Night Ghost Club" by Craig Davidson

Pandemic: Saturday Night Ghost Club by Craig Davidson, 2018, 9780143133933.

Guy named Jake thinks back to the summer he was 12-years-old and living on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. 

Jake is an only child, doesn't have many friends, hangs out with his weird uncle, and relies on his bicycle for freedom. Jake makes friends with a guy whose family moved to town from a Native Reservation. The other guy's sister is pretty, athletic, and brave. Jake goes a bit gooey for her.

Meanwhile,  Jake's uncle seems to be skirting reality. 12-year-old Jack cannot see this and as narrator he had me believing Uncle Calvin is just unique. Calvin ends up having the kids join him on a ghost hunt to different spots in town. Calvin and Co. meet up at night and Calvin narrates scary true stories about events at those different spots.

Anyway. I've really enjoyed Davidson's work over the years. A month or two ago I lucked out and ran across an audio version of the one horror novel is his I could not find. Davidson writes horror as Nick Cutter. I wrote Davidson as much and he wrote back saying "[Thanks, I appreciate the word.]"

Pandemic: "Rough Trade" by Todd Robinson

Pandemic: Rough Trade by Todd Robinson, 2016, 9781943818006.

Boo and Junior are still in their late 20s (or so) and working as bouncers at a lower rent Boston bar. They don't make much money. Their social and work lives are interjoined. One of the bar's waitresses asks them to scare off the former boyfriend of her roommate, Dana, because the ex keeps harassing Dana.

Boo and Junior fumble their way through a overly harsh warning that involves a kidnapping. Then the ex-boyfriend turns up dead and Boo and Junior are the main suspects. Standard crime novel shenanigans follow and Boo and Junior have to figure a way out of a murder charge and a couple subplots. Well, Boo figures a way out because Junior is a bit of an idiot. 

Plenty of wintertime cold, bad guys who beat the snot out of Boo, and Boo facing a reckoning on an anti-gay stance he never realized he had. An anti-gay stance that Junior vocally exceeds. Boo also has to fight his need to rescue women and reason against his knee jerk loyalty to the pals that helped one another survive their orphanage.

Robinson mixes all this stuff together and does so very well. But, I read this quite a bit ago and cannot recall all the details. There were some fist fights. Some scheming. Some pondering. Some amateur sleuthing. Plenty of Boo's past and present coming together as he works to learn and better himself. 

Boo's self realization is well done and gives the story oomph.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Pandemic: "Blood and Cinders" by DDC Morgan

Pandemic: Blood and Cinders by DDC Morgan, 2020, 9781912526680.

This was quite good. Recommended online by Anthony Neil Smith and the knock-out cover and title really sold me.

Post-war London in 1949 and former British Army Officer Reg Calloway is the security boss at a stadium. One of the massive draws at the stadium are the twice weekly motorcycle races. Speedwaycycle racing is a team sport with leather clad riders making 2-3 laps in groups of 4. The novel begins with the Bermondsey Bullets best rider of the season losing control, hitting a wall, and pronounced dead.

The team owner is a sexy, icy, close-to-middle-aged blond. She says there have been rumors that the rider was somehow sabotaged and killed on purpose. She asks Reg to ask around and investigate. Reg does.

Great stuff with lots of period detail. Reg is not the same after the war and most of his life is work. He had a very violent war and keeps his own residual rage and violence tamped down tight. Reg follows clues, asks questions, discovers secrets, follows dead ends. A well done mystery and ending chase.

1. Vintage motorcycle love.
2. Vintage motorcycle love had an anachronism according to one production date posted online.
3. Webley love.
4. Gay dudes under threat of beatings, arrest, and prison.
5. Dirty, rotten, filthy, stinking, no-good nazis.

Pandemic: "Overkill" by vanda Symon

Pandemic: Overkill by Vanda Symon, 2007 in NZ an 2018 in US, 9781912374274.\

I've been keeping my eye out for more Symon books but not many are available in the US.

Small town cop Sam Shephard responds to call about a drowned mother in the local river. The woman was the wife of Shephard's former long-time boyfriend. The wife was a quick marriage rebound after Shepherd declined his marriage proposal and moved away.

Shepherd investigates and a rare murder brings in all the regional cops and supervisors. Small statured Shepherd loves police work and took the career against the strong resistance of her family. She deals with some sexism, a-holes, cracks about her size, etc. Shepherd then comes into investigation for the murder.

Things happen and I don't recall too much about them except that I enjoyed the story a fair amount. Nice setting of rural New Zealand and Shepherd is an interesting character.

Pandemic: "Slow Bear" by Anthony Neil Smith

Pandemic: Slow Bear by Anthony Neil Smith, 2020, 9781912526673.

Two things up front:

1. Smith's novels get better and better for each subsequent work.
2. I think Smith is grouchy.

My first point up above reads rough, but you likely get the point. The guy deserves a much wider readership and it is neat to see the French translations are getting an audience.

Anyhoo. Micah "Slow Bear" Cross is a minor character from the novel Worm. He was a cop on his tribe's North Dakota reservation and lost an arm and his job in a shooting. Now he does some one armed strong-arm work and half assed investigations. Slow Bear wants to drink at the local casino and hang out at his trailer he parked in the middle-of-nowhere-prairie.

But, Micah gets involved in some nasty Reservation politics and is forced to look into a rival of the current Chief. Micah is having none of it and as you start to figure the plot will involve Micah as an undercover PI Smith turns the tables. "Turns the tables" means Micah remains himself: he does  not fucking care and says what he is thinking.

Things keep happening and Micah is left to react to trouble. This is a piss poor plot precis but that's too damn bad; we are in a pandemic. I also gave up working pandemic into the rest of that alliteration.

1. Post oil-boom North Dakota. How are things going there now? A few years ago public schools were bursting at the seams, housing could not keep pace, fast food shops did bonzo business.
2. Bad guys who just don't care. You are either a piece of meat or a walking ATM.