Book Review: Quarry’s Deal by Max Allan Collins

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Thanks to the new Cinemax TV series and Hard Case Crime, the first 5 books in the Quarry Series is becoming available again. This is the third book in the series and the fourth one I have read so far. This book has just recently been re-released and the next one will come out next month.

This book is as all of the Quarry books is told in the first person from Quarry’s point of view. It is fun to learn what is going on as our hero does. Quarry is a professional hitman who used to work for the Broker. If you have read the first two books you know what happens there. The last book is called Quarry’s List, and without giving away any spoilers, Quarry’s List leads him to a woman that goes by Ivy or Lu or Glenna. Lu is a professional assassin as well and Quarry has tracked her down to a swinging singles apartment complex in Florida. Soon it looks like Lu is on her way to the Mid-West and Quarry is on her tail to see what her assignment is. Does Lu know Quarry is also a professional killer? Will Quarry figure out who her partner is and who her target is? Will he stop her?

Max Allan Collins does it again with this book. This book is pure 60’s pulp fun! With all the pop culture references and Collins’ great turn of words makes for a fun read with a good story. Lu is a bit of a femme fatale, or is she? Her friend Ruthy is definitely a man eater.

I truly love all the Quarry books so far and cannot wait to start the next one. I hope the television series is as good as the books. If it is, I believe a lot of people will discover this series and even prompt Collins to write more of these books.

 

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Article: The couple who invented Nordic Noir

The Telegraph has a great little article by Jake Kerridge. Kerridge interviews Maj Sjöwall about her and her partner, Per Wahlöö, and their Nordic Noir book series about detective Martin Beck. In the article it goes over how these two influenced a lot of current greats like Lee Child and Henning Mankell. This is a short article worth your time if you are fans of Nordic Noir like Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbø. Here is a link to the full article:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/authorinterviews/11741385/The-couple-who-invented-Nordic-Noir.html

Book Review: Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead (Claire DeWitt mysteries #1) by Sara Gran

I have heard a lot of good stuff about Sara Gran and the Claire DeWitt books from Goodreads and other sites and blogs. This book is the first in the series. Claire DeWitt is obviously our main character in this series and she is one of the best private investigators in the world.

This story revolves around DeWitt traveling from California to take a case of a missing lawyer in New Orleans. The missing lawyer disappeared during the Katrina storm. This gives us a look at how this city is doing after the horrible disaster as well as giving us an interesting backdrop to the story. We also flashback to DeWitt’s past, where we find DeWitt started learning to solve mysteries from an early age. She finds a book, written by the famous french detective Jacques Silette, called Détection. She uses this book as her life guide and often quotes from it. We also learn about her teacher Constance, who studied directly under Silette and lived in New Orleans. Though DeWitt does not live in New Orleans we learn part of her past is from this city.

I’ll be honest, the mystery of the missing lawyer was good, but I was way more intrigued with DeWitt’s past cases and history. The missing lawyer case does get solved, but a lot of interesting stories from DeWitt’s past are left open and I want to know more about her history. Her two best friends growing up, Silette, and Constance are all people I want to know more about and think I will in future books. I will be continuing this series for sure!

Sara Gran is a fun author to read, and I look forward to following this series and want to go back and read some of her stand alone books as well. I recommend this book if you are looking for a new series in the noir and mystery genre.

Book Review: Time to Murder and Create by Lawrence Block

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Time to Murder and Create is the second book in the Matthew Scudder book series.  I recently read the first book in the series and reviewed it here:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/02/23/review-the-sins-of-the-fathers-by-lawrence-block/

I fell in love with this character after reading the first book and watching the new movie Walk Among the Tombstones, I reviewed this movie here:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/03/03/review-a-walk-among-the-tombstones/

Lawrence Block wrote this book in 1976 and reflects that time frame in New York City.  Some plot lines may not work today as well as they worked in the 1970’s, I’ll get to this a little later.

In this story there is only one returning character and that is Scudder himself.  I would say you can read this book without reading the first book and still enjoy it.  We do flashback to his “origin” story for a lack of a better word in this book, so if you are not familiar with what happened in book one, it gives you a brief synopsis.

Scudder evolves a little more in this book, but not much.  He is still very religious or at least looking at religion for some answers.  He is drinking very heavily in this installment as well.  He is our typical hardboiled ex-cop in a lot of respects, but very original in many ways, right up your alley if you are a fan of hardboiled and noir fiction.

This book puts our hero in a very unique situation.  He is approached by an old informant who feels Scudder is an honest man.   Jake “The Spinner” Jablon is the former informant turned blackmailer.  He gives Scudder the sealed envelope to open in the case of his death.  Of course we have seen this “if something happens to me the information will go straight to the Police” scenario.  What was unique is we usually see it from the blackmailer or the person being blackmailed, never from the point of view of the person holding the information in case of death.  We soon find out Spinner has been murdered and Scudder is on the case to find out who did it.   The problem is Spinner has been blackmailing three people, not just one!  So our hero must investigate all three to find the murderer, all the while keeping their secrets safe from the police.  Spinner only wanted the guilty party punished in this case and the other two set free of their past crimes.

Now back to why this works in the 1970’s but would never work today.  One of the three being black mailed used to be in the porn industry, she is married to a rich and powerful man and wants this kept secret from her new circle of society.  Another is a politician hoping to be Governor of New York someday.  His past is one of liking little boys and Spinner has the proof.  In today’s world of the internet, I would find it hard to believe a former porn-star who is rich and famous now would be able to hide that fact.  The second case I feel could be hidden from the public, but someone of that stature and with today’s politicians looking for dirt on their competition, this would be hard to keep secret very long.

This is another fun read and I look forward to reading more of Mr. Blocks work and the Scudder series in particular.  The stories may not be totally original, but Block always puts an original spin on them making them very unique and entertaining.  A good read for any fan of crime fiction.

Book Review: Cold Cold Ground by Adrian McKinty

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Cold Cold Ground by Adrian McKinty is an Irish noir that takes place in the early 1980’s.  McKinty grow up in Northern Ireland during this harsh time, so the background in which our story takes place is from somebody that lived it.  I had very little knowledge of the climate in the early 1980’s in Northern Ireland, but this book gave me some real historic insight of that turbulent time.

Some of the real life history that is happening during this novel is the Princes Di and Prince Charles wedding, something I do remember, because even though I was young this was on every magazine cover and newspaper headline at the time as well as live coverage on every television channel, all two of them!  So if you where home on that day watching television, you got to see the wedding whether you wanted to or not.

Unfortunately I did not know much about the real news of the time with the hunger strikes, the riots, and the fighting among the Protestants and the Catholics.  As well as England’s attempts to stop all this without siding with terrorists in any way and Margret Thatcher being the head of that balancing act.

A review I recently read, didn’t like the historic facts going on in the background of this story.  I actually learned some from this and didn’t mind the background facts, but did find this made the book a little long and took me longer to get through it than normal.  This was the same way with James Ellroy’s American Tabloid and the first two Coughlin books by Dennis Lehane.  All these books I felt like “When will this book end?!?” but after I was done, I felt like “I sure am glad I read that!”

This is the first of the Sean Duffy books and there are 4 books in the series with the 4th just being released.  After reading all the great reviews on like-minded blogs and on goodreads, I had to jump in and start the series.

The story is Sean Duffy is Catholic and has recently started working in a small Northern Irish town with a mostly Protestant police force.  A dead body is found in an abandon car with a gunshot wound and the hand cut off.  It is soon found out that the hand they found with this body is not from the same person.  They soon find the other body the hand belongs to.  The pattern shows homosexuals are being targeted by a serial killer. Our detective is also given a second case of a young women that appears to have committed suicide in the forest.  Duffy just doesn’t feel right about the suicide, and starts asking questions.  Where has she been for the last 6 months?  Is her ex-husbands incarceration and announcement he is starting a hunger strike have something to do with it?  As our story goes on and the more we learn the more questions we have.

This is a very good book and I look forward to reading the rest of the series.  I do have to take a break from Duffy for now, this is not a light read, but I will be back soon.

Review: Backstrom: He Who Kills the Dragon, Book vs Television

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I was given a copy of this book from Goodreads and Vintage Crime/Black Lizard publishing in exchange for this review. I entered to get this book, because I saw the first few episodes of the Fox Television series by the same name starring Rain Wilson.  Backstrom is the main character of author Leif GW Persson.  Persson was a professor of Criminology at the Swedish National Police Board from 1992 to 2012.  This may give him an edge on how things work from the inside of the police force.  This is interesting to me, I thought this book was OK, but it was 360 pages long to tell a story that I would think one of the current noir masters could have told in 200 to 250 pages.  I guess I would rather have a great story that is well written, rather than all the details of how the police have to operate.  The other problem with this book could be a culture issue.  Since this was originally written in Swedish and maybe it looses something when translated.  I’m not saying this book is a bad book, and I can see a lot of people who tend toward the more real and procedural type books will like this.

So how does this compare to the T.V. series?  There is not much the same between the two.  The similarities are few, first is the main character, Backstrom himself.  Backstrom is an overweight, out of shape, alcoholic, that tends to be a racist and sexist.  He is forced by his doctors to start changing his life or he isn’t going to live very long.  There is also a character named Nadia too.

Now the multiple differences, these are the ones I think would take away from a fans experience of either the T.V. series or the book series. Only the one book is available in the U.S.A. right now, and it is the second book in the series.  This series only has 3 books so far, so I don’t know why this is the one they published first.  There are a few references in this book that I assume is referring to the first book.  I bring this up because maybe some of the characters I really like in the TV series are missing in this book, but may be in the other two.  Back to our main character, Backstrom, though physically he seems about the same, but on the TV series he is a brilliant detective that can get into the heads of his suspects and figure out how and why they did the crime.  Because he is so brilliant the rest of the team lives with his short comings.  It seems in the book, he is more lucky than good.  He becomes a media darling, more because he is in the right spots at the right times, and his team under him is very skilled and he steals their credit.  This difference along makes the two very different in tone and feel.

The TV series takes place in Portland where the books take place in Sweden, that of course will give you a different feel.  The characters are very diverse in both book and series, but only one is the same, Nadia.  In the book Nadia is a character that understands Backstrom, she is an overweight Russian that works on Backstrom’s team, on the series she is a gorgeous blond that is a computer specialist played by Beatrice Rosen.  Over all I like the series characters as they develop over the course of time. Nicole Gravely played by Genevieve Angelson is the young detective that goes by the book, she was my favorite character in the first few episodes.  John Almond played by Dennis Haysbert is interesting as he is a pastor of a small church on the weekend and has conflict within his professional life because of his beliefs.  Thomas Dekker plays Valentine, Backstrom’s roommate and not always legit antique dealer.  We got other supporting characters like Backstrom’s ex played by Sarah Chalke.  I do wish the TV series would do 4-5 episode story arcs rather than one and done episode cases.  I wasn’t sure if I really liked the TV series at first, I will make a final verdict after the full season.  I seem to be liking it more and more each episode.

The only thing I really miss from the book that isn’t in the TV show is Annika Carlsson.  She is a bi-sexual that Backstrom warms to throughout the book.  I would like to see more of this character, but maybe not enough to read anymore of the books.

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In this battle I’m going to take the TV series over the book.  If you only watched the first few episodes to make your decision, you may want to watch a few more and see if it grows on you like it is me.

Christa Faust’s Angel Dare series

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Christa Faust is not only a great noir author, she loves noir.  If you’re not following her on Facebook you are missing out. She posts lots of great pin ups from the past, news about old film-noir movies playing in theaters, and tons of other information on books and films.  You should check out her Blog as well at:

http://christafaust.net/?cat=1

Now on to the books. This series is modern pulp gold.  If you think you can’t judge a book by its cover, your wrong.  These covers are pulp art and if you like them, you will love the stories inside.  Christa takes some classic noir themes and modernizes them.  Our main character is not your average noir type character, no private detective or mafia member here, she’s a female porn star!  Sure we have had femme fatales we fall in love with that are shady, but beautiful, and it always helps when they are a successful business women of some kind, but how about a porn star that owns their own adult entertainment company?!?!  Why has nobody thought of this before?  I admit it, I love Angel Dare, she is a strong female that has worked her way up the food chain in the porn industry. A business that is a grey area, it is legal but has some shady people working in it.  She looks out for her girls because she has been there and knows what it’s like.  She gets in a jam with some bad dudes and does what she needs to, to get herself out.  It’s a fun ride that is more original then you would think.  So how does she stand up in the second novel?  The second book takes a common theme in noir, professional fighting and modernizes it.  Instead of using Boxing like many noir stories have in the past, lets use Mixed Martial Arts?  Why not, it really works and Angel gets into more crazy trouble but in the world of MMA instead of Porn this time, not that we don’t revisit that world a little in this tale too. If you’re looking for something dark and gritty you should check out Angel Dare.  Now the question is, Christa, are we getting a new Angel Dare book?  If so, when?