Sunday, February 04, 2007

Two Shots At Kuhlken

If you liked Ken Kuhlken's earlier mysteries about the Hickeys--a California family of investigators, lawyers and musicians--you have two chances this month to renew old acquaintances. Poisoned Pen has a new paperback edition of The Loud Adios to go with The Do-Re-Me, a thoughtful and exciting hardcover. Among its other virtues, Do-Re-Mi captures summer 1972 and its motley crew--outlaw bikers, war protestors, marijuana growers and users--to understated perfection.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Not just a pretty face?

Check out The Rap Sheet for some news that might be of interest...

Monday, January 22, 2007

Stout's Honor

Before he earned literary immortality by inventing Nero Wolfe, Stout wrote several crime novels – two of which the tireless publisher/editor/bookstore owner Otto Penzler has collected (along with another early short story) in this classy package.

Her Forbidden Knight features a smart young woman who works as a New York hotel telegraph operator and unwittingly gets involved in a counterfeiting scheme. A Prize for Princes is about another kind of young woman – one who captures men’s souls and the uses them for her own nefarious purposes.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Holy Sheed

"No occupation designed for dim younger sons was ever easier to enter than book reviewing; or, once entered, easier to rise in. You go immediately to the top, it is the least you can ask.... So whatever politics a microscope may turn up in this game can have little to do with upward mobility. Since there is absolutely no way of not reaching the top -- and since the top proves to be so close to the bottom -- the satisfaction must be sought crabwise, foraging side to side, magazine to magazine; passing on the way other reviewers of similar, sometimes almost interchangeable sensibility, who are lurching counterclockwise." WILFRED SHEED

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Bad Titles, Great Books

"Peter Rabe wrote the best books with the worst titles of anybody I can think of," says Donald Westlake -- whose own books (and titles) are world-class -- in his afterword to this new edition from Stark House of two of Rabe's most powerful paperback originals. "Murder Me for Nickels, Kill the Boss Goodbye? And yet," Westlake continues, "Kill the Boss Goodbye is one of the most purely interesting crime novels ever written."

Perhaps the title problem came from the fact that Rabe was born in Germany in 1921 and immigrated to America in 1938 -- so English was not his original language. But the books themselves are fascinating and unique, as these two newly-rescued examples -- My Lovely Executioner / Agreement to Kill -- prove.

Both books are about men in or recently released from prison. Jimmy Gallivan of My Lovely Executioner is about to get out, but a fellow inmate screws up Jimmy's plans with a treacherous scheme. In Agreement to Kill, Jake Spinner is just out of jail and headed back to work on his farm, until deadly events turn things around. Both are absolutely riveting.

Monday, January 15, 2007

And So Say All of Us

I'm delighted to report that England's venerable drinking and writing group called the Detection Club has decided to celebrate one of its founders' 80th birthday with a collection of stories in his honor. H.R.F. Keating, known as Harry to friends, fans and colleagues, is a rare talent, author of the Inspector Ghote series of mysteries set in India as well as less-exotic but equally sleek and sly crime novels.

Prominent club members who celebrate him here include P.D. James, Peter Lovesey (who also does an ace job of editing the book), Reginald Hill, Colin Dexter and Len Deighton – in his first published story in recent memory, Sherlock Holmes and the Titanic Swindle. It's a jaunty, strange, occasionally baffling tale of swindlers and publishers (though its sometimes hard to tell the difference), which at 30 pages begins and anchors the collection in a way which Keating must have chortled at.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Bringing Bardin Back To Life

Salvador Dali on the cover, a ground-shaking introduction by Jonathan Lethem (Motherless Brooklyn etc.) quoting the likes of Greil Marcus (whose latest book is the critically acclaimed The Shape of Things to Come: Prophecy and the American Voice) -- who is this guy John Franklin Bardin anyway, and why is everyone making such a fuss?

Bardin (1916-1981) wrote ten psychological crime novels, no doubt influenced by early tragedies -- deaths of close relatives; a mother's increasing mental illness. But he also worked for an advertising agency and edited popular magazines.

The Deadly Percheron, championed back into print by Lethem, is, as he writes, "a combination of paranoia and amnesia... but the tone is anything but. Instead, the book comes off like a brisk blend of Damon Runyon and The Twilight Zone."

Many thanks to Millipede Press for another handsome restoration.

Excellence Present

S.J. Rozan has a new hardcover -- In this Rain -- which I'll review in my Chicago Tribune column 1/14, plus a new paperback of her last novel.

Rozan isn't the first writer to use what happened to New York on Sept. 11, 2001, as the background for a crime novel. But the images of pain, loss and fear on every page of Absent Friends are so strong that the book will probably be remembered for them, rather than for the intricate and heart-breaking story of her characters, a group of friends who grew up on Staten Island in the 1970s.

"Everyone was like this now," says a criminal lawyer named Phil Constantine (a latecomer to the friends' circle and a definite outsider who does their dirty jobs but is treated roughly, especially by the women), suddenly caught up in a TV news item involving a client. "Every siren, every subway delay, every unexpected crowd as you rounded the corner made your heart speed, your palms sweat." And the sense of the city's vanished crystalline beauty comes through like an arrow in the heart: "In New York now, beautiful days were suspect, clear blue skies tainted with an invisible acid etch."

At the center of these absent friends (even the ones who survived paid a terrible price of loss of hope for the future) is Jimmy McCaffery, a heroic firefighter who died in the towers. While most of the others remained in their peaceful Staten Island harbor, Jimmy left 20 years ago for Manhattan, where he became a captain at a firehouse near the site of the attack. But why did McCaffery really leave: over a failed love affair, or because of his involvement in some secret payments to the family of a mob-connected man who died in prison?

A once-great newspaper reporter, now mired in booze and self-pity, thinks he has found the answer, but his body falls from a bridge before his story is finished. His young, idealistic lover is determined to find out why. Constantine the lawyer and other friends of McCaffery would rather let it all sink beneath the water and ash.

Rozan, who has justly won every mystery award going, knows how to balance their pasts and their presents without trivializing anything that happened on 9/11. Her performance--a dance in front of the burning towers--takes guts, brains and heart, and all are present in abundance.

No End to Abrahams' Story -- or His Talent

Peter Abrahams, one of my favorite writers, has a new hardcover -- Nerve Damage: A Novel -- out soon, and the paperback version of his last terrific novel, End Of Story, in the stores.

Here’s the deal: I’m going to keep on raving about Abrahams until he 1.) writes a bad book; or 2.) gets to be a regular on the best-seller lists where he deserves to be. If thriller-writing was a disease, Abrahams would be its poster boy, and End of Story is a beautifully crafted and astonishingly exciting story.

Ivy Seidel is a writer in trouble: she has an impressive educational background, lots of rejections (the New Yorker’s was kind and handwritten), a job as a waitress. A lucky Hollywood break for her best writing buddy gives her the chance to teach prisoners at upstate New York’s Dannemora Prison, at $100 a visit plus gas money. It’s as far from the New Yorker as Ivy can get in terms of atmosphere, but Abrahams makes you smell the fear and feel all the bad vibes.

At least one of her five pupils appears to have talent, and Ivy is so caught up in his work that she buys into his story of innocence – until life threatens to be much more dangerous than fiction.

Down But Not Out

Theresa Schwegel has a new hardcover out -- Probable Cause -- and the paperback version of her Edgar-winning first novel, Officer Down.

Schwegel's impressive first mystery about a cop named Samantha Mack – Smack to her colleagues – catches the flavor of Chicago in endearing ways. “It’s low-key, unadvertised, and out of the way, and it’s been around for too long to be trendy,” she says of her favorite late-night eating place, Iggy’s on Milwaukee Avenue. “I’ve never had a better steak after 10 p.m.”

Waiting for her date – a homicide detective named Mason Imes – to show up and buy her that steak, Smack gets an urgent call from her boss at the 23rd to fill in for another colleague with the flu. She joins her ex-boyfriend Fred as they go after a pervert, and many shots are fired. Smack gets hit hard on the head, and Fred winds up dead – killed by Smack’s .38. Was it an accident, as the police department badly wants to label it? Or was there really someone else in the room, who the battered and concussed Smack is virtually certain did the killing?

Of course there was, and it soon becomes evident – perhaps a bit too evident – that Smack will have to do all the digging herself. Between the slickly dismissive (and married) Imes, a particularly pesky bird from Internal Affairs, and a police establishment which threatens to take her badge if she doesn’t behave, Smack has no real friends.

But Schwegel, who writes about police work with authority (“It’s like hide-and-seek and my .38 is a heavy toy,” she has Smack think as a bust develops) has also created a tough and original character. At 32, Smack is as honest as they come, especially about herself. “My hair looks like it’s been pulled back all day (it has) and my makeup looks like a second coat rather than a fresh one (it is). Good thing we’re going to Iggy’s; at times like these, I live for bad lighting.”

Friday, December 22, 2006

Another Deadly Year

I can't think of another annual anthology of crime stories which supplies as much sheer reading pleasure plus as much important information as the one which editors Ed Gorman and Martin H. Greenberg lay upon us like a golden egg at the end of every year.

Their 2006 door-stopper is 576 pages of surveys by Jon L. Breen, Edward D. Hoch and ace blogger Sarah Weinman (who analyzes and chooses the best of online crime, but sadly doesn't have one of her own sharp print offerings in the book).

What stories are here are topnotch, from Sharan Newman's The Deadly Bride (which loans the book its title) through excellent offerings by James Hall, Nancy Pickard (her The Virgin of Small Plains: A Novel of Suspense was one of my own best books of 2006), David Morrell, Rick Mofina, Robert S. Levinson, Jeremiah Healy, Anne Perry -- the list is endlessly readable.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Save the Independent Book Stores

The most endangered species in the world seems to be the independent crime book store, including this one and others talked about by book people including Sarah Weinman and many others.

I use Amazon on my own blog, mostly because it's a way to get the new paperback covers on line for a non-geek like me -- and also the chance to make a (very) few bucks. Many other crime bloggers do the same.

But the point of this post is to say very loudly that if you're anywhere near an independent book store, PLEASE buy your books there -- no matter where you first see, hear or read about them. You'll feel much better about it when you do.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

An Italian Kiss

THE GOODBYE KISS, by Massimo Carlotto; translated by Lawrence Venuti

So many mysteries as strong and black as good espresso are coming out of Italy these days that a bookwatcher might just detect a trend. In the last couple of months, there have been such dark delights as The Smell of the Night, by Andrea Camilleri, and Involuntary Witness, by Gianrico Carofiglio. Like Carofiglio, an anti-Mafia judge, Massimo Carlotto has a history as riveting as any novel. In 1976, the leftwing militant was charged with murder; he fled to Paris and then Mexico before being returned to Italy, where after seven years in prison a presidential pardon set him free in 1993, and he soon became one of Italy’s most popular writers.

The Goodbye Kiss, Carlotto’s first book to be published in America (by the increasingly impressive new Europa Editions), has a lead character – by no stretch of the imagination a hero – named Giorgio Pellegrini. Still wanted for political crimes in Italy, he is hiding out in Central America, his idealism burned away. The betrayal of his revolutionary colleagues by one of their leaders makes Giorgio decide to head home to Italy, to see if anything is left of his once lofty plans and hopes.

There isn’t much light in Carlotto’s piazza, and readers expecting soothing travelogues might opt for another writer. But those with a taste – even a need – for an occasional inky cup of bitter honesty should lap this up.

One of My Best of 2006 Books... due out any minute in paperback:

Gentlemen & Players is one of those rare books that grips and holds you like an elaborate conjuring trick. It’s only after you’ve stopped gasping – after the last page has been turned and marveled at – that you begin to ask questions. What did I miss? Were there any hints I should have noticed, any mistakes the author or her editors should have caught?

Joanne Harris, who has written everything from sensuous cookbooks to best-selling novels like Chocolat, immerses us so quickly in her frightening story of a child driven to murder by hatred for a school that her new book is both socially important and vastly entertaining.

At its center is a palace of privilege – St. Oswald’s, a British school for the sons of the wealthy and powerful, an escape from the real world they will soon have to face. “St. Oswald’s was another world,” says the troubled child who tells half the story. “Here I knew there would be no graffiti, no litter, no vandalism – not as much as a broken window…I felt a sudden inarticulate conviction that this was where I truly belonged…”

The other half of the story is narrated by a classics master named Roy Straitley, who has been at St. Oswald’s for 33 years and knows the best and worst of what the school really is. He at first seems like an unlikely and unworthy opponent, chosen at random -- but turning those ideas upside down is another one of Harris’ amazing tricks. The two lead characters play out their elaborate chess match involving unrequited love, revenge and violent death.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Have a Very Noir Xmas

Greg Shepard of Stark House, along with a small and equally daring group of other paperback houses (Hard Case Crime, Felony & Mayhem, Crippen & Landru, Millipede, to name a few) are dedicated to restoring to print the best mysteries and thrillers of the past.

Shepard’s latest effort, as fascinating and exciting as it is laudable, is a double dose of Gil Brewer – a tremendously gifted, deeply troubled man who was one of the stars of the Gold Medal stable of paperbacks which so many of us used to spend our quarters on in the 50s and 60s.

Anthony Boucher, the man who invented serious mystery reviewing, applauded A Taste of Sin in the New York Times for its “vigorous pace… and its wild, incredible, yet somehow compelling hyperbole in both crime and sex.” Like a James M. Cain on booze and speed, it tells the story of a woman who wants her lover to murder her bank manager husband and steal the bank’s money.

Wild to Possess is a more complicated story, but equally gripping – about a man who first discovers his wife and her lover murdered and then stumbles on the actual killers and decides to cut himself in on their bloody business.

“They were selling pulp fiction, yes, but it was a different, upscale kind of pulp,” says the wonderfully dedicated and resourceful Bill Pronzini of Gold Medal and its cohorts in his afterward – which, together with a 1990 memoir by Brewer’s wife provides details of the writer’s life which would make a stone weep. And if the cover has a familiar look, especially to Hard Case addicts, it’s a photo from the collection of ace paperback illustrator Robert Maguire, who did the original Wild to Possess cover.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

McKinty's Gold

If I were a student at the Denver high school where Adrian McKinty teaches English and Civics, I’d try very hard to get into both of his classes. Not many people can combine obvious mastery of the two subjects – plus a pungently jaundiced dash of political history -- into one ironic paragraph as he does in his new paperback, The Dead Yard.

“The thing you had to remember when dealing with these people was that the Britain of the Empire was long gone,” says Irish roughneck Michael Forsythe as he’s about to be blackmailed into working for MI6. “The Brits may have conquered India and won two world wars but they also had a complacency and an incompetence that had gotten many people killed. Jeremy and Samantha [his MI6 handlers] were the descendants of the people who had been responsible for the disasters of the Somme and Gallipoli in World War One. The people who had tried to walk to the South Pole instead of taking dogs, who had built the unsinkable Titanic, who had lost America, surrendered at Singapore, starved Ireland, appeased Hitler...”

We first met Forsythe when the Belfast mercenary was infiltrating a bloody South Boston Irish mob for the FBI, in Dead I Well May Be. Now the resourceful, amoral, surprisingly charming young man of 26 who lost a foot and a few measures of skin and blood in a Mexican drug adventure, has slipped out of the Witness Protection Program to watch the Irish and British soccer teams (and their fans) do battle in Spain. Violence erupts in the streets; Forsythe winds up facing not only a long prison sentence as a warning against football hooliganism but also possible extradition to Mexico where his other foot might not be the only thing he loses. So when the sexy Samantha and her uppercrust underling Jeremy offer him a get-out-of-jail card and a free trip back to Boston, he agrees in spite of his anti-Brit instincts.

What Michael is supposed to do is charm his way into a small terrorist cell called the Sons of Cuchulainn, whose loose cannon status threatens an elaborate cease fire agreement with the IRA. Instead, Michael falls in love with the touching and troubled Kit, the 19-year-old daughter of the cell’s lunatic leader, and has to go up against his even more dangerous deputy, known as Touched McCuigan. There are enough bullets to stock an armory, but with McKinty it’s the words which leave the deepest impressions.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Not Prone to Kill

THE PRONE GUNMAN, by Jean-Patrick Manchette, translated by James Brook.

Manchette, the revered French author of many thrillers for the famous Serie Noire publishing title, retired from writing in 1981 (he died at 53 in 1995). This was his last book, and it does a fine job of summing up a genre and his work in it. If the plot sounds familiar (a paid assassin wants to retire, but is tricked into taking on one last job, which goes absurdly and violently awry), it's probably because so many writers and film-makers have used -- and often abused -- it since.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Murder by the Numbers

THE OXFORD MURDERS, by Guillermo Martinez, translated by Sonia Soto.

The best crime fiction, as I've said often, lights up landscapes both exterior and interior. Martinez is a novelist from Argentina who combines – in person and in his latest work – a fascination with mathematics and murder. Is the violent death of an old woman in the British university city of Oxford connected in some way with a highly-lauded study of a particular form of discipline called logical series? And is it the first of a series of death which might just be putting the study to its ultimate test?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Here Comes a Falling Angel...

Millipede Press, a new publishing house in Lakewood, Colorado, specializes in crime fiction books that are beautifully designed and shrewdly introduced -- carefully chosen specimens of classics that are often not easily available elsewhere. Two recent additions to Millipede’s list prove how important the house has quickly become:

I first fell under the spell of Fredric Brown when science fiction was my mental drug of choice: his stories in Weird Tales and Astounding were worth paying the cover price for on their own. Then, as crime fiction became my favorite genre, Brown’s “cynical idealism” (as Bill Pronzini says in his new introduction) made me a devout admirer of this aspect of his work. Here Comes A Candle tells of the inner battle fought by a haunted young man who is torn between making a living as a mobster and doing something worthwhile. It uses several stylistic devices to tell its story, and you can see its influences on crime writers in the 50 years since it was originally published.

“This is the literary love child of Raymond Chandler and Stephen King,” says film director Ridley Scott in his succinct foreword to the other new Millipede tribute out this month, and King himself makes a graceful appearance in a 1978 letter to the original hardcover publisher of Falling Angel. A new afterword by author William Hjortsberg, telling how his novel has moved into the land of legend since its early cult days, plus a bonus story and an introduction by his friend and fellow Montana literary giant James Crumley make this book about a private detective named Harry Angel who is literally in over his head a holiday gift for your favorite crime fiction lover.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Any Questions?

"In my career, I reckon I have read about 3,000 crime novels; some of them all the way through. Yet I am always being accosted by crime writers who announce themselves and then say 'You haven't reviewed my new book' to which I usually answer 'There's no need to thank me.' " -- MIKE RIPLEY

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Hard Life on the Oklahoma Frontier

As the mother of nine, Alafair Tucker's hard but basically peaceful life on a farm on the Oklahoma frontier in 1912 is changed forever when one of her daughters - 17-year-old Phoebe -- is involved in the murder of an obnoxious neighbor. Phoebe is the girlfriend of the chief suspect, the dead man's son, and might even have been his accomplice in the crime.

Under Donis Casey's gifted hand and shrewd historic eye, Alafair adds solving a mystery to her busy schedule. It all could very easily have gone soft and cute - especially the many long visits to the Tuckers' fellow farmers. But by avoiding all the built-in traps, Casey has produced a sharp and suspenseful first novel.

Music to Our Eyes

Johnny Temple, publisher of the always lively paperback house Akashic Books, is a rock musician himself, and he combines his interests in music and mysteries in this first novel from Claypool -- bassist and lead singer for the band Primus.

South of the Pumphouse
started life as a screenplay, which adds a strong visual element to the sharply evocative book -- the story of two brothers on a fishing trip riddled with drugs and danger. And the only connection to Tom Wolfe's legendary Pumphouse Gang is that both pieces take place on or near the Pacific...

Sunday, November 12, 2006

It's Murda Out There

MURDALAND, edited by Michael Langnas, asks the question,"Is a new magazine featuring short stories what the crime fiction world needs right now?" (Can you say Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery Queen?) Luckily, the folks behind this new semi-annual (they hope to publish at least quarterly soon) aren’t put off by the competition.

The format is a handsome paperback, and editor Langnas has convinced such top writers as Daniel Woodrell, Ken Bruen and Anthony Neil Smith to contribute to his first issue. There’s also a classic reprint from David Goodis, and a remarkable article called “My War” by the poet and ex-Sandinista rebel Paolo Madrigal.

The Coldest Stone

When Stone City was first published, in 1990, the reviews were as glowing as the possibilities of thriller stardom for author Mitchell Smith. His career has taken several different directions since then, but this remarkable look inside a state prison so brutal that it almost makes a good argument for the death penalty is an absolute original – now being brought back from out-of-print perdition to amaze a new generation.

Omaha Noir

The last time I waxed poetic (now it’s Poetic’s turn to wax me, as Groucho might say) about Doolittle, for Rain Dogs, I suggested that he was too good to be a writer of original paperbacks all his life. Belay that: he is, as Laura Lippman says in a jacket blurb for his latest, “a cult writer for the masses” – a title which fits several other writers (Dickens, Doyle, Dostoyevsky) whose last names also happen to begin with D. The Cleanup is about a terminally hopeless Omaha cop who winds up as a night security guard at a supermarket, and it could well be the best thrills-for-the-buck reading bargain of the year.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Rules of Laughter

Humor is hard, especially in crime fiction. J.A. Konrath pulls it off regularly, as does Joe Lansdale. But some of the former masters still mentioned in blurbs (Leonard, Hiaasen & Co.) have faltered of late, so it’s a pleasure to welcome newcomer Troy Cook to the Comedy Crime Club.

47 Rules of Highly Effective Bank Robbers starts off with a jolly premise – a 22-year-old woman raised by her father to take over the family heist business and be a veritable Joan Dillinger – then ups the ante and moves on to truly inventive excitement and hilarity.

The trouble is that Tara Evans’ daddy, Wyatt, is going nuts – jeopardizing both of their futures by breaking all the survival lessons he has passed on with such care. Tara’s new boyfriend, Max, a sheriff's son who definitely has grander plans than a career in law enforcement, also adds an element of comic danger.

Cook, a former filmmaker with a great respect for words, knows just how many to use to bring to life a sunburned Arizona landscape and the slightly screwy, often touching, almost constantly amusing people who live in it.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Wheelmen Don't Eat Quiche

How much physical punishment are the lead characters in a thriller supposed to absorb before they collapse, die, or have to spend months in hospital getting skin grafts and reconstructive surgery?

In Duane Swierczynski’s first novel, just out in paperback to coincide with his latest hardcover, The Blonde, Patrick Lennon – an Irish criminal currently working in Philadelphia -- is so smashed up, punctured, shot and mutilated that at every page turn we expect to find him lying in a whimpering heap on the ground. But minutes later, after a deep breath or two and a check of his pulse through his carotid artery, he’s back for more punishment.

Lennon doesn’t curse or scream out loud during any of this, either -- because he lost his voice to a bullet during an armed robbery some years before. An expert driver, Lennon is part of a three-man team intent on removing from a bank the $650,000 in cash which the Mayor plans to use as a political gesture to revitalize a rundown neighborhood. The robbery itself goes down smoothly, and we learn how to get a couple of crooks out of a bank’s access-control unit which supposedly locks them in the revolving door but can be deactivated by smashing an Acura head on into it – a fact probably learned by the author when he did the research for his non-fiction book, This Here’s A Stick-Up.

But (wouldn’t you know it?) somebody else also has their eyes on the loot and knows Lennon’s getaway plan: he and his two colleagues are treated extremely badly, smashed into by a van, stuffed naked down some drainage pipes, things like that. Only Lennon survives, and expends his rudely-treated body and mind on finding out who.

Swierczynski has an uncommon gift for the banal lunacy of criminal dialogue, a delightfully devious eye for character, and a surprisingly well-developed narrative engine for a beginner. I hope he also has a good health insurance plan which he can share with his hero...

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Religion Can Kill You

The veteran mystery writer and reviewer Jon L. Breen has taken one of today's hottest-button issues from the editorial pages and turned it into a crackling good novel which invokes all sorts of spirits -- from G.K. Chesterton and the later Dorothy L. Sayers to more contemporary writers such as Robert Irvine and Julia Spencer-Fleming.

What happens when Norm Carpenter, one of the two partners in a successful Orange County private detective firm (men apparently as compatible as bread and butter) suddenly announces that he's quitting because he has become a born-again Christian? His partner, Al Hasp, thinks that by persuading Norm to take on one final case, involving a popular televangelist anonymously accused of fraud and other criminal behavior, Carpenter will realize the error of his decision. But things quickly turn very nasty, and it would be a sin to reveal any of Breen's devilish plotting...

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Lone Wolf in Bear's Clothing

Another strong and zesty Canadian thriller writer heard from. Linwood Barclay, a columnist for the Toronto Star, wrote two justifiably well-received books, Bad Move and Bad Guys, about a journalist named Zack Walker who just can’t stay out of trouble or danger. His latest roars along a similar, satisfying track, as Zack – worried about what might be a murder by bear in the fishing camp his father owns – stirs up a much more dangerous kind of evil.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Rapping About Paper

If the idea of beautiful, handmade paper or a painting by the famed 19th Century British landscape artist J.M.W. Turner gets you as excited as reading a sharp and sad mystery, this new novel – her first -- from a British journalist who specializes in covering wars should satisfy all your cravings.

Charlotte "Charlie" Hudson, recovering slowly from the physical and psychological wounds of her coverage of the war in Kosovo, becomes fascinated with handmade art papers – especially the ones used by Turner. This leads to a romantic connection with another British painter – whose daughter’s suicide is beginning to look much more like murder. Holden manages to be as interesting about the history of paper as she is about modern crime.