Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Pandemic Audio: "Goblins" by Charles Grant

 Pandemic Audio: Goblins by Charles Grant, 1994 (I think), downloaded from Hoopla.

Original X-Files novel and set after first season (I think). Mulder and Scully are reinstated into the X-Files. Some murders are happening outside Fort Dix in New Jersey. A Senator says, "Hey, I'm a Senator, and I say the FBI should look into these local murders. So get cracking."

Mulder and Scully head to New Jersey with two junior agents tagging along. There is scientific intrigue. There are mysterious murders from what people think are goblins. There is small town intrigue. There are stonewalling Army dudes. There are secretive scientists doing secretive experiments. There are small town eccentrics and weirdos.

I enjoyed the story. This is story with a 25-years-younger Mulder and Scully than the final X-Files season I watched a couple months ago. Not much else to say. I finished this back in September. Maybe August.

Pandemic: "Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes" by Suzanne Collins

 Pandemic: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins, 2020, Hoopla audiobook download.

Nuts. I listened to this back in May and apparently missed typiing any notes.

Well... it's a Hunger Games novel. A prequel with the teen version of President Snow. It's a nice standalone novel and basically a focus on life after wartime. The Capital is pretty new and there are food shortages and rubble. I'd compare it to post-war Berlin except the dirty, rotten, filthy, stinking, no-good nazis won.

Other thoughts: Teen protagonist wants regular teen things like acceptance, love, and respect of peers. He also wants to reclaim the family name and wealth. 

Plot: former rich kid Snow is enrolled in an elite school for the wealthy and powerful. He does well in school. He and fellow classmates are chosen as patrons of the provincial teens who are brought in to compete in the Hunger Games. The Games are held in a abandoned stadium. 

Snow gets hotsy-totsy for the girl he is assigned. The girl wins. Snow gets in big trouble and has to join the army (or whatever they call it). Snow is sent to girl's district and has teenage fancies of lovey and dovey and a life together. Reality intrudes as cruelty and power are the way the world runs.

More Pandemic: "The Price of Malice" by Archer Mayor

 More Pandemic: The Price of Malice by Archer Mayor, 2009, Hoopla download.

I forgot the plot, man. let me look it up... OK. I recall it now. Child rapist is murdered in his run-down apartment and Joe Gunther also finds out his girly-friend's long missing father and brother may have been murdered.

Mayor often writes about the down-and-out crooks of Vermont. Small town hoods and ne'er-do-wells following paths of misdemeanors and a small felonies. Those people live and work alongside the heavies of crime who deal in prostitution, loansharking, drugs, and the rare murder. Well, rare in real life but not in Guntherland.

Living in apartments where the entire building will rattle when someone climbs the stairs. Wide ranging families formed by ties of blood, romance, convenience, and business. Cars that sometimes work. Poor paying jobs that'll cut you loose at short notice. People who get cut loose because they'd rather drink and smoke than go to a lousy job. People see things. People hear things. People don't trust the police and won't tell the police.

Meanwhile the local cops deal with a few cases of burglary, murder, and sexual assault. The rest of the time they deal with substance abuse and people who cannot or will not form healthy romantic relationships. Called back to the BS squabbles every weekend night they try to get along with the locals misfits. When a murder happens the state investigators like Gunther show up run the case.

Anyhoo. Gunther is even keeled and supports and trusts the cops he supervises. He's been involved with a new girly friend but works loooooong hours during a case and his personal life suffers. Mayor also saddles Gunther with long-time asshole Willy Kunkle. Kunkle is a prick who, in real life, would have been fired from law enforcement long ago. But, this is a novel.

Meanwhile the subplot has New Girly Friend looking into a new lead on her missing family. The father and brother disappeared years ago at sea when working their fishing boat. New found clues are followed that show a possible murder. 

I dropped reading Mayor about 15+ years ago after one novel was not well done. I started up again a couple years ago and have stayed with it. I have 2-3 withdrawn paperbacks and hardcovers I've been going through plus a couple audiobooks I've downloaded.

More Pandemic Audio: "Sunburn" by Laura Lippman

 More Pandemic Audio: Sunburn by Laura Lippman, 2018, downloaded from Hoopla.

Short: Woman dumps a husband and lands in small town Maryland near to the coast. Woman is pretty redhead who gets job, boyfriend, and we learn her story with sex and murder.

So noir-y that even I recognized some of the plot points as homages to other stories. Redhead is Polly. She shows up in a local restaurant and catches the eye of a guy there. 

Look, I'm not going to try and do a fancy-schmancy write-up. There are plenty of reviews online and I listened to this back in April. For all that has happened this year that seven months may as well be seven years.

Things I do remember: a woman with no trust in men starts to trust one. A woman who seems sociopathic is not. A woman dedicated to her children has to carry out a difficult long-term plan to ensure the freedom of herself, her children, and her finances. 


Pandemic Audio: "Light It Up" by Nick Petrie

 Pandemic Audio: Light It Up by Nick Petrie, 2018, Wisconsin Digital Library.

Peter Ash gets a call from someone he worked with before. The guy is in his 70s and owns a security company in Denver that specializes in cash courier trucks for the all-cash marijuana dispensaries and grow facilities. One of the guarded trucks disappeared and the men are also missing. Did they steal the money or were they murdered?

More intrigue and violence. The series started to sour for me on this entry. I cannot recall why exactly. But, Ash and his good buddy from Milwaukee are both itchy combat veterans. They have become adrenaline junkies. Apparently sky-diving or motorcycle racing are not good enough for them.  Instead they feed the adrenaline need and comfort their psychological problems with violence. That includes gunfights in public and car chases across public golf courses.   

Anyhoo. Ash and his fellow dudes are ambushed on a rural road. A couple colleagues are killed, Ash gets captured with another guy. Ash makes a dramatic escape with lots of killing and a downhill chase. Ash calls his buddy in Milwaukee and Milwaukee Buddy flies over for some tourism terror. 

Meanshile, Ash has been on the move and away from the girly-friend he made in the last novel. She tells him to get his shit straight and cope with his mental health issues. She flies over to join them, gets caught, and gives Ash something to be angry and worried about.

More things happen and the bad guys are bad and the good guys are imperfect. Don't get me wrong: imperfect heroes and anti-heroes are fine. For whatever reason this character has been rubbing me the wrong way. 

Comments:

1. Old gun love.

2. House building and car love.

3. Denver street map love during chase scenes.

4. Super fit Ash does lots of running. Lots and lots of running. Like Tom-Cruise-in-every-damn-movie running.

5. Trekking through the forest in snow storm love.

EDIT: 

6. Remembered the gratuitous Jon Jordan character. I recall a murder.


Thursday, November 5, 2020

Pandemic Audio: "Burning Bright" by Nick Petrie

 Pandemic Audio: Burning Bright by Nick Petrie, 2017, Wisconsin Digital Library.

Second novel with drifter-dude Peter Ash. A recap: Ash was an infantry officer in the Marine Corps with several war tours. When he was discharged he ended up with a severe claustrophobia that makes him unable to endure being inside any buildings. He has been living in his pickup - an old one with a big windscreen window that makes him feel more outside - and working outdoor jobs like construction. He also has retirement or disability money (I don't recall which. Maybe both. Doesn't matter.) from the Corps.

Ash has been working with a trail building crew in the redwood forest of Northern California. When the job ends Ash starks hiking. While taking a break on the trail he downs his pack and leans against a tree. A bear shows up Ash climbs the tree. The bear tears apart all of Ash's belongings and sits at the bottom of the tree. Ash figures, "Fuck it" and starts climbing with the intention of traversing branches until he can get several trees away from the bear.

Ash finds a hanging climbing rope. Ash figures "Fuck it" and climbs the rope. Ash climbs more ropes into the redwoods and traverses tree-to-tree until he finds a woman with a gun living in the trees. Tree Woman's famous computer professor mother was killed and people are trying to kill Tree Woman. Ash figures "Fuck it" and he and Tree Woman team up to fight the power. 

Anyhoo. Ash and Tree Woman get lovey-dovey. The bad guy's are ruthless mercenaries. Ash is a ruthless killer. Ash and Tree Woman move around the Pac Northwest figuring things out with some cat-and-mouse and death.

Comments:

1. These are knight errant novels. An easy comparison is to Jack Reacher but Ash seems more ruthless somehow. And that is saying something.

2. Pickup truck love.

3. Eccentric mathematician love.

4. Easy chair tourism with Ash and Tree Woman moving around the forests and a couple cities.

Pandemic Ebook: "I Was Dora Suarez" by Derek Raymond

 Pandemic Ebook: I Was Dora Suarez by Derek Raymond, 1990, from Wisconsin Digital Library.


I finished this in September. I've enjoyed the Factory novels and many reviews say this is the best one. I disagree. I think How the Dead Live is better.

This one is kinda weird. The Police Inspector is brought back to work after getting canned in the previous novel. There is a high profile double murder and post-mortem butchering - actual butchering because he ate part of one victim - and another crime related murder a short distance away. Both murder scenes look to be linked.

Inspector gets all lovey-dovey for the young dead woman who was the focus on the killer's wrath. The novel is sort-of partly epistolary with Inspector reading the dead woman's journals. Meanwhile, we follow the insane killer around whose psychosis seems more made up by Raymond than realistic.  

Inspector is partly assisted by another cop. Both of them are brutal and cruel but never, never ever, put hands on a suspect or interviewee. They take great pride in breaking a man down with words and mental pressure. The cops finally track down the killer to his squat in an abandoned building where he has a weird self torturing set-up. 

There is a lot about the killer's self-punishment and how dangerous and unstable he is. I never quite understnad Raymond's description of the self-punishment device that involved a bicycle wheel and that the man's penis has been mutilated.

Comments:

1. My annoyance with the novel is the ongoing and sometimes interminable philosophizing by Inspector of love, crime and fate and the dead woman. Ugh. 

2. Suarez has full blown AIDS with Sarcoma lesions. This was done in a time and place where AIDS was still mysterious and guaranteed death. The characters spoke about a very unusual disease. 

3. Great setting of the London Metro police and urban setting. Raymond was a small-time crook himself and his crooks are always human: they act like real people are sometimes amoral thugs.

Another Audio: "Bad Men" by John Connolly

 Another Audio: Bad Men by John Connelly, 2003, Downloaded from the library's Hoopla service.

Terrible narration. Fun story that mixes horror and crime.

A island off Maine is one of the more remote and difficult ones to get to. A small population has a cop living there full time who is supplemented by a rotating schedule of cops from Portland PD. The local Native tribes never much went there and the first Europeans were murdered on a snowy night by a crazed former resident who was banished from the island.

There are:

  • The local cop who is a legitimate giant at 7-feet-plus.
  • A Woman On The Run with her young son.
  • An island possessed by spirits of murdered people.
  • A bad guy and his crew of bad guys who are killing there way from South Carolina to Maine so he can recover the money his wife, Woman On The Run, took from him.
  • Psychopaths in the bad guy crew.
  • A big snow storm.
  • Small town life and gossip on the island.
  • A local bad guy cop who is a child rapist.
  • A local rookie cop woman.
  • A kid in danger.
  • Ghosts.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

More Audio: "The Lost Man' BY Jane Harper

 More Audio: The Lost Man by Jane Harper, 2018, Wisconsin Digital Library download.

Another Australian whodunnit heavy on the setting of remote Australia. Gloriously heavy. "I can feel the heat threatening death" heavy.

I read the initial plot description and this sounded like a pile of crap. That plot intro was roughly "two brothers meet at a remote property marker with a third brother dead at their feet". This novel is so much better than the intro that made it sound like a boring family drama.

Briefly: Three brothers rasied by a violent father on a middle-of-nowhere cattle station in Australia. Thousands of acres of land. The oldest brother has a station next to the family land and is a 90 minute drive away. Harper brings home the remoteness and solitude throughout the novel because the loneliness is integral to life. No neighborly chats. No chatty phone calls. No streaming Netflix. Instead there is always farm work to do and the semi truck comes every couple months or so to stock up your cold room with provisions. The cold room protects against the regular 100+ F heat.

Anyhoo. One of the brothers is found dead at a 100-year-old grave marker. The oldest brother (he's about 35-40 years old) narrates and wondering what the fuck happened. Because, no one goes out into the Bush without a truck stocked with food and water, a radio, and telling everyone the destination and schedule. When the dead brother's truck is found a few kilometers away things are inexplicable.

Harper's books have nice, paced reveals for all the character's histories. Fun stuff.

Comments:

1. After the brother's death no one says 'suicide'. No one says 'killed himself. All the familiy, far-off neighbors, police, and local health guy are thinking he had to have killed himself. But no one says the words.

2. Isolation as a necessity for that way of life. Farming requires lot of hours and a trip to the pub is three hours of driving. You have a few beers at the bar and then sleep in your truck.

3. Got me thinking of Sara Gran's PI, Claire DeWitt. The eldest brother is lonely by choice after a rotten father, dumped by a unhappy wife, money trouble, banished from town, poor farming land, poisoned dead dog, etc. He is lonely by active choice. Does not have or want close relationships. DeWitt has plenty of clients, friends, and one-night-stands but little intimacy.

4. Harper has some perceptive comments on loneliness. That being alone is tolerable and manageable because you shut down a few emotions. When returning to society you visit friends and family and smile and enjoy yourself. That may be for a few hours, maybe a day or two, and then you have to return to isolation. Easier to just avoid those brief human interactions when you know the loneliness that will come afterwards.