Wednesday, February 24, 2021
Today I remind you of Never Kill A Cat And Other Stories by Miles Archer.
This short story collection by Miles Archer opens with the signature story “Never Kill A Cat.” Dolores Sorrento is elderly, very lonely, and spends much of her time reading mystery books. When she isn’t reading, she is talking to her many feline companions. That is when she is not dealing with Tommy Cooper and his parents who live across the street. Tommy Cooper is the terror of the neighborhood. Now, he has gone too far and has to pay for this crime.
Renn is supposed to be focused on the live fire exercise at the training grounds. That is a bit difficult since he and Becky had a major fight in the hours preceding. In “Murder In Uniform” Renn does what he needs to do to get through the day.
It is October of 1973 in San Francisco in “Nobody Gets Outa Here Alive.” Freddy Jones has a job he despises, but at least he has one. A routine trip for smokes on his way home turns into the most intense experience of his life. It changes the whole way he considers the world. Fortunately, his job has the tools needs to take the first steps along his new path.
Brian Donovan has lost yet another job as “Eternal Love” begins. He is a good worker, but annoys his coworkers with his attitude. His day is going to get way worse when he gets home.
The next several stories feature Doug Mc Cool over the years. As time passes, Doug McCool gets more and more into the private investigator line of work. That process starts with “For What It’s Worth” where it is 1972 and McCool has returned from Vietnam. He is in San Francisco spending a lot of time in the VA rehab. While there he spends a lot of time with a guy Johnny White. The same Johnny White who, after discharge from rehab, became heavily involved with the Black Panthers and changed his name to Karim Africanus.
After about a year or so, McCool got a call from an attorney representing Johnny/Karim. There had been an FBI raid and Jonny/Karim was under arrest for the murder of an informer named Perkins. The attorney thinks that maybe McCool could help as some of those involved in the case might be more willing to talk to a white guy instead of the African American lawyer.
Move forward in time a few years and McCool’s latest client is Mrs. Washington in “Hell Hath No Fury.” Her daughter, Noorleen, has been arrested for murder. A criminal defense attorney McCool knows by the name of Peter Tallent told Mrs. Washington to hire McCool to do some leg work, create a report, and he might take the case pro bono. Mr. Tallent is one of the good guys and the case in interesting enough that McCool agrees to do a little digging. It quickly is clear that Norleen is in a bind because of circumstantial evidence. Once they had their suspect in the local jail they quit working the case.
His next client is also in a bind, but not with the cops. In fact, it is because of the San Francisco cops, specifically one by the name of inspector Harry Stanton, that Mr. Mori is in McCool’s office looking for help. Mr. Mori owns a waste hauling company known as “South Metro Waste.” It operates in the south side of San Francisco in the area formerly known as “Butchertown.” The meat packers the area is known for are no longer around, but South Metro Waste that was started in 1901 is going strong.
So strong that the mob is trying to take over his business unless he sells out to an outfit known as “United Haulers” based out of Cleveland, bad things will start happening to his family. McCool likes the guy and agrees to poke a little and see if he can figure out a way to get Mori and his family clear of the problem in “The Art of War.”
The beautiful Monica Grant appears in his office doorway in “Il Beso Di Morta.” Married to an investment banker of some type, her husband is apparently in some sort of business deal with a guy known as Dominic Abbruzio. Good old Dominic is deep in the mob and is known by his nickname “Razor.” Mrs. Grant wants McCool to get her husband out of the mess he has gotten himself in to and to do it with our husband having a clue about it. Good thing she can pay as that hat will be easier said than done.
Author Miles Archer shifts narrator gender with his next story titled “The Miller’s Wife’s Tale.” Told from the perspective of Barbara Brown, McCool’s everything; she has been left behind to hold the fort while McCool cavorts in Mexico with a certain lady. She is not happy as her hair needs a touch up, she has a headache and feels bloated, and is about to have her time of the month as well as deal with clients.
One of those clients is Tammy Wingate who wants them to investigate the string of prostitute murders in the city thanks to a serial killer. She is the executive director of COYOTE, a prostitute support organization. She also has connections to the important people in the city of San Francisco. The cops aren’t getting anywhere in their case so Inspector Dave Toshi sent her their way.
The good Inspector had no idea McCool was in Mexico, but considering Barbara is the real brains of the outfit it should not be a problem. It is one of two cases that she will handle in this story.
The final McCool tale is one of pain titled “The Black Hole.” McCool now lives in a trailer contemplating suicide by bottle or gun. It has been months since he had a client and is not in the shape for one. But, a woman by the name of Susan Sharpe is nothing if not persistent.
She is divorced and very glad to be rid of her ex-husband. While packing up some stuff across she came across a computer disk. Her ex works for a petroleum company and apparently didn’t take it with him. Somebody is making threats over the disk, Susan is scared, and needs McCool’s help. The first thing to do, after he learns what is on it, is return the damn disk. How to do that is a problem not easily solved.
The nine tales that make up Never Kill A Cat And Other Stories are all highly atmospheric and very complicated tales featuring fully developed characters. The McCool tales make up two thirds of the book while providing some very good reading. Those stories frequently play with the classic private detective stereotypes while going off in unconventional tangents. The result is a read recently published by Untreed Reads that is highly entertaining and well worth your time.
Never Kill A Cat And Other Stories
Material supplied by the publisher in exchange for my objective review.
Kevin R. Tipple ©2015, 2021
Tuesday, February 23, 2021
Beneath the Stains of Time: Stratagems in the Snow: "The Spy and the Snowman" (1980) by Edward D. Hoch
Monday, February 22, 2021
Susan Furlong is a contemporary American mystery writer. She has written two books as Lucy Arlington in the Novel Idea mysteries. Under her own name she published three books in the Georgia Peach series and three books in the Bone Gap Travellers series. The Bone Gap Travellers stories are set in Appalachian Tennessee, where some of the descendants of the nomadic Irish Travellers who immigrated to the United States during the potato famine settled. The Irish Travellers are another of the sects in the American melting pot that, like the Amish, live apart from the greater culture. Furlong describes how she came to meet members of the group in the Author’s Note in the first title in the series, Splintered Silence (Kensington, 2017).
Splintered Silence introduces Brynn Callahan and her dog Wilco. Brynn is a former Marine who served three tours of duty in the Middle East. Wilco was her working dog who served as her partner in searching for dead and injured service members. They were both severely injured when an IED exploded and were invalided out. Brynn has returned to the only home she has ever known in Bone Gap, Tennessee, to help her grandmother as her grandfather’s health fails. Brynn’s mother left her with her grandparents when she was young and she never knew who her father was. Brynn found a home and a career in the military and is at loose ends now that it has ended.
Wilco’s training kicks in on their first day back home and he finds a body in the woods behind Brynn’s grandmother’s house. She meets the local law enforcement representatives this way and runs headlong into the local prejudices against her clan. Her clan members and even her family are suspicious of her, seeing her as part of the outside world. On the other hand, the sheriff urges her to support the homicide investigation in ways that she thinks would betray her family, to whom she feels deep loyalty. These contradictory pulls on her set up an ongoing conflict that Brynn is hard-pressed to resolve.
Brynn veers first one way, then the other as she uses her investigative skills to keep a clan member from being unjustly accused of the murder. Any loud noise sets off her PTSD, and she struggles to keep her attacks hidden from those around her, ashamed of the substantial scarring the IED blast left. A subplot addresses how she interacts with the people she grew up with, contrasting their lives as teenagers and the adults they grew to be.
Other mystery series have made effective use of the culture clash as a source of conflict for their main characters, as Furlong does here. Consider Linda Castillo’s Kate Burkholder, Aimee and David Thurlo’s Ella Clah, and Marilyn Meredith’s Tempe Crabtree for example. A well-plotted mystery and a thoughtful examination of cultural diversity and the ways it is often misunderstood.
· Publisher: Kensington (December 26, 2017)
· Language: English
· Hardcover: 272 pages
· ISBN-10: 1496711661
· ISBN-13: 978-1496711663
Aubrey Hamilton ©2021
Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal It projects by day and reads mysteries at night.
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Saturday, February 20, 2021
The power and the water continues to flow here at Casa Tipple and Home Eatery Library located in NE Dallas. We have been very lucky to have everything stay on and we both are very glad for that. This has been an incredibly stressful event and this old house has made a lot of noises I have not heard since coming back here in the summer of 2017. I have not been sleeping much, not that I do anymore since Sandi passed, but it was been way worse than normal. The noises do not help. More than once each night I have been up with a flashlight checking to make sure we were not leaking water from somewhere after seeing another round of horror stories on the news. Like Covid news when that started, it is easy to watch too much coverage and do a real mental number on yourself. At least, it is that way for me.
While my front porch is in the shade and still icy and slick as it is shade and faces north, the back porch onto the deck melted almost completely with much of it dry by midafternoon. That meant I could get outside with my cane and carefully wander around the house and eyeball things. We seem to have dodged the roof damage some of the neighbors clearly have on top of dealing with burst pipes.
At this point, it looks like the only casualty is the old car battery in Sandi's car. I will deal with that later as folks with far more urgent issues are flooding the stores and car repair places.
There is talk that we may hit 70 on Tuesday and Wednesday. If true, I will be outside reading out there both days.
Tip of the cap to Bev Vincent who shared this on FB where I saw it:
Up in KRL this morning a review and giveaway of "Ink and Shadows" by Ellery Adams https://kingsriverlife.com/02/20/ink-and-shadows-by-ellery-adams/
And a review and giveaway of "18 1/2 Disguises" by Larissa Reinhart along with a fun interview with Larissa https://kingsriverlife.com/02/20/18-1-2-disguises-by-larissa-reinhart/
Also a review and giveaway of a signed copy of "Death by Intermission" by Alexis Morgan, along with a fun guest post about a night at the movies by Alexis https://kingsriverlife.com/02/20/death-by-intermission-by-alexis-morgan/
And a review and ebook giveaway of the latest Crispin Guest book, "Spiteful Bones" by Jeri Westerson https://kingsriverlife.com/02/20/spiteful-bones-by-jeri-westerson/
We also have a review and giveaway of "A Stranger in Town" by Kelley Armstrong https://kingsriverlife.com/02/20/a-stranger-in-town-by-kelley-armstrong/
And an article sharing about some fun things going on with KRL and Mysteryrat's Maze Podcast, including a chance to get some fun stuff while helping to support what we do https://kingsriverlife.com/02/20/krl-mysteryrats-maze-podcast/
Up during the week we had another special midweek guest post, this one by mystery writer Penny Grubb about how real life weaves its way into her books. You can also enter to win a copy of "Falling Into Crime" by Penny, which comprises the first three novels in the Annie Raymond mystery series https://kingsriverlife.com/02/17/how-real-life-weaves-its-way-into-crime-fiction/
And another special midweek guest post, this one by mystery author CeeCee James about the journey of her characters and her own journey https://kingsriverlife.com/02/17/a-journey-explored-through-writing/
Up on KRL News and Reviews this week we have a review and ebook giveaway of "Mind-Bending Murder" by Leslie Langtry https://www.krlnews.com/2021/02/mind-bending-murder-by-leslie-langtry.html
And a review and ebook giveaway of "Death by Magic" by Abigail Keam https://www.krlnews.com/2021/02/death-by-magic-by-abigail-keam.html
The Firmament of Flame by Drew Williams is the third book in The Universe After Series. I previously reviewed the first book, The Stars Now Unclaimed and the second book, A Chain Across The Dawn. This third book in the series continues the adventures of Jane, Esa, and others as they attempt to figure out the goal of the Cyn. To do this, the Justified operatives of various teams have launched a joint operation to backtrack the route of the Cyn to try and figure out where he came from. Obviously, there are those that will try to stop that. Hopefully find out where he came from will lead to answers. His fellow Cyn and their followers are going to do everything they can to prevent that. This is a journey of discovery type novel and one difficult to talk about without causing spoilers.
This book features a larger cast of characters since Esa and Jane are accompanied by more allies than usual. Everyone has their own personalities and abilities and their own needed skill set. The book is still told from Jane and Esa’s perspectives, however, they have clearly changed a lot over the series.
Everything a reader loves about the first two books is present here. Plenty of action, mystery, humor. There is a ton of world building, lore expansion, and set-up. This is a novel that is meant to shake things up and send the series off into a new direction. This book setting up a fourth and, as of yet, untitled and unannounced book. What was originally intended as a trilogy has been expanded beyond what the author originally intended. This series is no longer being marketed as a trilogy.
I highly recommend this series in general and this book. The Firmament of Flame by Drew Williams ties into both books heavily and there are numerous plot points from the previous books relevant here. This series should be read in order.
The Firmament Of Time (The Universe After Book 3)
Tom Doherty Associates (Tor)
Hardback (also available in audio and eBook formats)
My reading copy came from the Mountain Creek Branch of the Dallas Public Library System.
Scott Tipple ©2021
Friday, February 19, 2021
Bookblog of the Bristol Library: The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic and How it Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson
Friday means Friday’s Forgotten books and more suggested reading. Today is a repeat of Barry Ergang’s 2015 review of GRIFTER’S GAME, a.k.a. MONA (1961) by Lawrence Block. After you read his review and mosey around here, make sure you head over to Patti Abbott’s blog as well as Aubrey Nye Hamilton’s blog and see what they suggest today.
GRIFTER’S GAME, a.k.a. MONA (1961) by Lawrence Block
Reviewed by Barry Ergang
It’s a short novel, so I want to give very little away lest I spoil a fast, entertaining nibble of noirishment by an always-reliable author. It’s narrated by a grifter named Joe Marlin who, when the story opens, has to get out of Philadelphia because the con he tried to pull off fell through and he hasn’t enough money to pay his expensive hotel bill. Thus he takes the train to Atlantic City and steals some monogrammed luggage from the railway station there so he can check into a respectable hotel.
Shortly thereafter, he meets and spends time on the beach with a beautiful young blonde named Mona, who admits she is married to a much older businessman whom she finds “fat and he’s ugly. Also stupid. Also revolting.” When Marlin asks her why she married him, she says he’s “Very very very rich.”
After Marlin returns to his hotel room, he unpacks the suitcases he stole and makes a stunning discovery, one that could be either remunerative or lethal. When he and Mona reconnect (to put it euphemistically) on the beach, both seem to realize that mutual lust has turned into something mutually deeper—even after Marlin realizes who the monogram belongs to and what it could potentially mean for him—and apart from the fact that both agree the monogram’s owner must be eliminated.
The e-book edition of Grifter’s Game which I read features a new afterword by Lawrence Block, the opening paragraph of which says, “This turned out to be the first book published under my own name, although I assumed it would be pseudonymous soft-core porn when I started it. A couple of chapters in I decided that this book might be a cut above what I’d been writing, so I wrote it as a crime novel with the hope it might work for Gold Medal Books. They were the first house to see it, and Knox Burger bought it.”
Thus the beginning of the deservedly multi-award-winning career of an outstanding writer. See my opening sentence for a recommendation of this particular work. Or ignore it and just read the book.
Barry Ergang ©20016, 2021