Mick Herron is
a talented author of crime fiction that is routinely shortlisted for major
awards. His books about a group of failed MI-5 agents are utterly brilliant in
concept and execution. This Is What
Happened (Soho Crime, 2018) is a stand-alone spy novel with several
surprises along the way.
is 26 years old, living alone in London in a sublet room and working a mediocre
job in a large corporate mail room. Both parents are gone, her only sibling is
a sister to whom she hasn’t spoken for years. Few friends and not many
interests, she could disappear and no one would notice. She often treats
herself at a coffee shop on the way home from work, where she’s approached one
day by a stranger who engages her in conversation. Too lonely to question this
man’s attention and motives, she comes to rely on meeting him. Eventually this
stranger explains he’s from MI-5 and that the company she works for is under
surveillance for its foreign connections. He needs someone to install a program
on their computer network so MI-5 can monitor the company’s activities.
does not question anything this complete stranger tells her. He coaches her for
weeks on how to install the program, which computer to use, how to escape
detection by the security guards, etc. On the night she is to install the
system, she hides in a ladies’ room until midnight, when she sneaks up several
flights of stairs to the executive offices and successfully inserts the flash
drive she’s been given in a senior manager’s computer and turns the computer on.
En route downstairs, however, she runs into one of the security guards who
knows she shouldn’t be in the building at that hour.
point on, the story takes so many twists and turns, the reader might reasonably
feel the onset of whiplash. Unexpectedly dark, loaded with suspense, it’s easy
to quickly become invested in Maggie and her well-being, which is seriously in doubt
at several points in the story.
CALL by Ann Cleeves, reviewed by Linda Wilson
A man is
found stabbed to death on the bleak North Devon coast. Detective Inspector
Matthew Venn leads the hunt for the killer.
AGENT by Alan Judd, reviewed by Arnold Taylor
negotiations are taking place and are proving troublesome. When Charles
Thoroughgood, Head of MI6, learns from his Director of Operations that somebody
working for the EU Commission has offered to provide information to the British
Government, he has decide what to do in order to test its trustworthiness.
HEROIN by Melissa Scrivener Love, reviewed by Chris Roberts
Vasquez has become a woman of substance in her South LA suburb through the retailing
of narcotics, but her continued survival depends upon meeting challenges with
some very tough decisions.
A KILLER by Emma Kavanagh, reviewed by John Cleal
Sergeant Alice Parr is first attender at the attempted murder of an
unidentified woman in a London park. As the case expands, she discovers she is
chasing a killer, always one step ahead, with her own life in danger.
SHERLOCK! by Simon Mason, reviewed by Linda Wilson
disappearance of a girl from home late one night puzzles the police. Teenage
sleuth Garvie Smith has his own ideas about Amy Roecastle’s disappearance, but
no one is particularly interested in his take on things, at least not until
their own ideas start to run out.
WOMAN by Caroline Lea, reviewed by Ewa Sherman
woman, Rósa, is suddenly married off to Jón Eiríksson, a brooding widower and a
wealthy chieftain of an isolated settlement in 17th century Iceland. As she
joins him at his croft, she becomes aware of many secrets surrounding her
husband, especially the suspicion that he has murdered his previous wife.
CL Taylor, reviewed by Kati Barr-Taylor
the seven hotel guests is a murderer, and he or she is watching Anna.
CAT by Jake Woodhouse, reviewed by Chris Roberts
Jaap Rykel returns, on leave with PTSD but unable to resist involvement when a
murder is reported with features corresponding precisely to a previous homicide
for which a man has already been imprisoned.
JACK by Anna Smith, reviewed by John Cleal
corporate lawyer Kerry Casey is slowly steering her father’s gangland empire
towards legitimacy, but faces a deadly threat from a vicious Columbian drugs
by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, reviewed by Sharon Wheeler
literary agent has been found dead – and DCI Bill Slider and his team are under
pressure from the powers-that-be to confirm that the death was accidental.
Slider’s not so sure, though.
HAUNTING OF HENDERSON CLOSE by Catherine Cavendish, reviewed by Linda
has landed her dream job as a tour guide, playing the part of a woman living in
1830s Edinburgh, but when things start to go bump in the daytime as well as the
night, she starts to wonder if she’s bitten off more than she can chew.
OF SUSPECTS by George Bellairs, reviewed by Chris Roberts
explosion at a Surrey joinery kills three of the directors, Superintendent Tom
Littlejohn of Scotland Yard is called in to investigate.
IN CHELSEA by Lynn Brittney, reviewed by John Cleal
gossip writer is found hanged. She was hated by many and her family are
convinced she was murdered. A small crime-fighting team are tasked to find the
James Delargy, reviewed by Kati Barr-Taylor
Gabriel are telling the same story about their abduction. But one of them is
ODDS by William McIntyre, reviewed by Chris Roberts
Robbie Munro returns to represent George ‘Genghis’ McCann, a drug addict on
legal aid, and Oscar ‘The Showman’ Bowman, a rich snooker champion.
KILL by Paddy Hirsch, reviewed by John Cleal
York City expands, black and Irish gangs fight for control and speculators
gamble fortunes. When a young girl is found butchered, Marshal Justy Flanagan
and his friend Kerry O’Toole, penetrate a shadowy community and must fight to
save the city – and their own lives.
Erin Kinsley, reviewed by Kati Barr-Taylor
and Matt are about to learn that abduction brings more than fear, hopelessness
and impotence – it brings an impenetrable silence.
TROUBLE by Steph Broadribb, reviewed by Linda Wilson
‘The Fish’ Fletcher has broken out of prison, killing several guards in the
process. Bounty hunter Lori Anderson has the job of bringing him back.
KILLER by Leigh Russell, reviewed by John Cleal
Detective Sergeant Geraldine Steel thinks a murder is the work of a more deliberate
killer. When two more victims die in similarly indiscriminate attacks, the
spectre of a serial killer stalks York.
TO LIE by Rebecca Griffiths, reviewed by John Barnbrook
sister is stabbed in a London convenience store. Her death appears linked to a
summer spent in the countryside when they were children, a time when sinister
For those who prefer to listen to the
podcast directly on KRL you can find the player for the latest episode
here-this one features the mystery short story "The Jade Cats
Mystery" by Sharon K Garner, read by local actor Ariel Linn. This one is
told by a black cat, perfect for Halloween season!
JLA: Earth 2 by Grant Morrison
and artist Frank Quitely is a story that features a good Lex Luthor from Earth
2. In fact, he is the lone hero of Earth 2. In Earth 2, The Justice League is
evil and goes by the name of The Crime Syndicate Of Amerika. The Crime
Syndicate rules the world with an iron fist led by Ultraman (evil Superman),
Owlman (evil Batman), and more. Desperate for any chance to win his war against
the evils of his world, Lex Luthor makes a bold plan to go to Earth 1 and beg
The Justice League to return with him to his Earth. He has a plan to save his
Earth. He needs 48 hours and their help to implement it. The Justice League members
agree and the fight is on to save Earth 2.
This story was
published back in October 2000 so the roster of the Justice League is different
from the current books. At this time the roster includes seven members: Batman,
Martian Manhunter, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash (the Wally West version--not
Barry Allen), Aquaman (post losing his hand and sporting a hook for a hand and
never wearing a shirt), and the Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner). It is worth noting
that this is when Kyle Rayner was either a rookie green lantern who was the
last green lantern or one of the last depending on the artist and the time
This was also when they
had Aquaman was going through a phase where the writers tried to make him a Conan
the Barbarian type dude or some sort of weird /pirate/warrior/king hybrid so
that he theoretically would be cooler to readers. Hence, he is depicted as
bearded with long hair and shirtless, and has a hand missing which means he now
has a hook. His look is completed by having him wearing some sort of metal
breast plate on his chest that gives folks a nice target by exposing one
nipple.Someone thought this was a good
look for him during that time. Why? Who knows, but they thought this nonsense
worked and so they made him look like this for awhile.
JLA: Earth 2 is one of several
tales that Grant Morrison wrote over several years that were centered on The
Justice League. This particular one can be read as a stand-alone and without
having read the other books in the series that some readers refer to as the “Big
Seven of The Justice League” books.
The art style in the
read takes some time to get used to as the male characters are also ripped to
extreme levels and their faces are a bit rough. Superman and Lex Luthor suffer
the worst art wise and are depicted not even fitting in chairs. Then there is
the cover which depicts Superman with a very prominent bulge in his clothing. The art is not the highlight of this
collection. The story is and it is a good one.
I enjoyed the
debates on ethics and whether The League should intervene in the affairs of
another Earth was fun. Seeing twisted versions of the Justice League and the
interactions between them and the heroes is one of the cooler parts of this
story. The ending is not very typical for a comic book and surprised me. Every
heroic character gets their time to shine in this story and the villains get
their time to remind people they are nothing like the good guys. I enjoyed this
story. It is a short read and I wish they went into more detail about the parallel
world and their villains.
JLA: Earth 2 is a fun and enjoyable
read, but it is dated thanks to the unintentionally funny depiction of Aquaman.
The person who approved this depiction of Aquaman has some serious issues. While
it would be fine to just read this one, if you want to read the rest of the run
start with Justice League of America: New World Order which features a
mullet sporting Superman and the rest of the Justice League vs an army of White
Barry Ergang is back on the blog today with an
all new review for FFB. For the full list of reading suggestions, check out
Todd Mason’s Sweet Freedom blog.
FEVER DREAM (2011) by Dennis
Reviewed by Barry Ergang
psychologist Dr. Daniel Rinaldi, in addition to maintaining a private practice,
has been a consultant to the Pittsburgh Police Department for seven years. A
victim of a violent crime himself, he understands only too well how profoundly
other victims, whether official or civilian, can suffer and need help to
recover when impacted by crime-bred violence.
middle of a therapy session with a carjacking victim, Rinaldi gets a call from
Pittsburgh PD Detective Eleanor Lowrey, with whom he’s worked in the past. She
explains that there’s “An armed robbery in progress. Midtown, the First
Allegheny Bank. We’ve got uniforms, SWAT…Looks like a couple perps…Apparently
somebody’s dead in there.” Rinaldi terminates the session and heads to the
there are four hostages still in the bank, one, a woman named Treva Williams,
has been released. She’s an emotional wreck, and Rinaldi does his best to
console her under the circumstances. When the bank is finally sieged and
Rinaldi is among those who get inside, what they find is utter carnage. Only a
wounded security guard named Vickers has survived.
he’s eventually drawn into the situation as a therapist for Treva Williams,
Rinaldi also becomes involved with the gubernatorial campaign of District Attorney Leland Sinclair, with whom
he has a tenuous relationship, as well as varying mutualrelationships with members of the Pittsburgh
Police Department—i.e., the aforementioned Eleanor Lowrey: potentially amorous;
her partner Detective Harry Polk: tenuous at best; and Lieutenant Stu Biegler: outright
hostility. Moreover, Rinaldi learns from a professional colleague that a
relatively young man, Andrew Parker, whom he knew from his time working at a
psychiatric facility called Ten Oaks, has apparently committed suicide.
what starts out as an apparently straightforward thriller but ultimately
becomes, additionally, a neatly-paced and deftly-rendered whodunit, Rinaldi
finds himself up against vicious killers and criminal plots in his efforts to
solve multiple crimes and stay alive.
Dream is the
second of Dennis Palumbo’s Daniel Rinaldi mysteries. As I’ve indicated in
reviews of other titles in this series, I don’t like to provide more than the sketchiest
sense of the plotlines lest I inadvertently reveal any of the twists and
surprises in a story with a superior sense of characterization befitting an
author who, like Rinaldi, is a clinical psychologist, and who, as a Pittsburgh
native, delivers a strong sense of place.That said, fans of mysteries which are both
hardboiled and cerebral owe it to themselves to have a look at this
novel and the series of which it’s a part, as long as they aren’t squeamish
about street language, on-screen violence and, in some of the entries,
Among other works, Derringer Award-winner Barry
Ergang's own impossible crime novelette, The Play of Light and Shadow, is available at Amazon and Smashwords as is his recently released book of poetry, Farrago, and other
entertaining reads. For more on Barry’s books as well as his editing services,
check out Barry’s website.
short story, “Itsy Bitsy Spider” starts off the fifteen 15 tales that make up Tough
2: Crime Tales. Mona Peterson was trouble from the moment she walked
into Morris Ronald Boyette’s office. She had walked over from the University in
the rain, sans umbrella and bra, and wants to have the detective to deal with
the Professor’s sexual harassment. That case is one of several that take
up his time in “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and is easily the most consequential to the
good detective’s future.
Frank is a long way and many years in Chosin, Korea in “The Third
Jump of Frankie Buffalo” by Thomas Pluck. A choke point is anywhere where
things get really narrow and something can happen and the railroad crossing
ahead of him is definitely a chokepoint. The cement mixer Frank is driving has
a job to do and the stalled traffic is nothing more than an inconvenience. That
is until, as the clock ticks and his mission takes a turn, it isn’t.
The time is also a major part of “Day Planner” by Matt Mattilla.
In a story where events are marked by the hour and minute, the kid goes through
his day trying to blend in and not draw attention to himself for good reason.
Easier said than done. Especially when others cause issues.
Driving a car for Valley Cab is usually fairly easy for Gordon
Jurewicz. He has his routine and an uneventful life. Then she jumped into his
backseat and started screaming for him to drive in “Tally Ho” by William R.
Soldan. She needs help and Gordon is eager to do so.
Anne and James talk a walk every morning on the beach of Amelia
Island, Florida. It has been their routine for two years now. In “Beach Body”
by C. A. Rowland, their walk is interrupted by the discovery of a body. James knew
the now dead woman and probably knew her intimately. Anne knows that another
scandal, just like what happened in Chicago, is soon in store and her marriage
might not survive this one.
Piosa had loved the old Mustang and had spent many hours working
hard to restore it. It only seems fitting that his ashes joins the car in a
sort of “Viking Funeral.” In this tale by Nick Kolakowski, setting the
car ablaze is easy. Dealing with the aftermath of the fire, just like dealing
with the aftermath of what they experienced over there, proves not so easy.
Marty had no idea how much he was in trouble with Shayne until
after they ate at the diner just south of Charlotte. This time isn’t like the many
other runs to West Palm Beach and back. In “Long Drive Home” by Andrew Welsh-Huggins,
Marty has to figure out a way to deal with the new situation. Things are going
to get very complicated very fast
It is a beautiful afternoon and Cowan wishes he was sitting in a
seat on the plane cutting through the cobalt blue sky far above him in
“Masonry” by Rob McClure Smith. He isn’t. He is also being followed. The kid
who is following him is just the vanguard of a bigger problem known by the name
of Prince Hall. Outnumbered and outgunned, running his mouth could be his only
option. Until it isn’t.
Carla has plans and
needs Arron to spring for what she wants. She knows how to work her feminine
magic in “Once Upon A Time in Chicago” by Tia J’anae. But, this night is off
and she felt that way from the start. She really should have listened to her
inner voice that was shouting a warning.
Turner didn’t want to go behind bars, but it is what it is in “The
Grass Beneath My Feet” by S. A. Cosby. Cold Water Correctional Facility is what
it is. At least they let him out for a brief visit to a chapel to pray his
respects to this deceased mother. It has been a long 15 years and plenty is on
Marsha knows everybody says a dead body looks like a mannequin,
but it really does in “No News is Good News” by Evelyn Deshane. Even though it
always seemed silly to her and she knew it was a cliché, Marsha now realizes it
is definitely true. She had seen the van pull away from the nearby bus stop so
maybe she has a lead for the police. A lead
that the police don’t seem to care about at all because some victims just don’t
Bagging groceries isn’t that great a job, but it is a job. In
Haggard, the options job wise are very few. In “The Bag Girl” by Alec Cizak,
she does what she needs to do to survive. She has a job at the store and
another at home and both are mind numbing and hard in their own ways.
From direct personal experience, Jean knew what the man who called
himself “Samson” did two years ago. The fact that he stole the table was just a
symbol of everything he stole that night. That night changed the course of her
life forever. In “Sarah, Sweet and Stealthy” by Preston Lang, a form of justice
comes slowly and with some help.
Back in the 40’s, a mother abandoned her newborn in in the woods
of Red Thrush Mountain. When a search party went looking after the young mother
confessed, all they found was a small feed sack dress covered in feline fur. It
may be years later, but the legend of what happened is still strong and a
menacing presence. In “With Hair Black Than Coal” by Chris McGinley, strange
things are again going on in the woods and Sheriff Curley Knott is on the case.
“She Loves First” by Mary Thorson is the final read in Tough
2: Crime Stories. Lula has been left behind as Tom is in New York to
covertly photograph an execution for a New York Paper. His bird is still
present and is seriously annoying. Something is going to have to change as she
can’t keep living like this.
Like its predecessor, Tough:
Crime Stories, the new book, Tough 2: Crime Stories,is
a solidly good read. Most of the tales are on the dark side, but there are the
occasional flashes of muted humor. Even if that humor tends to be on the dark
and twisted side of the ledger. As one would expect from the title, these are
not tales of cozy mystery where a death is gently and politely discussed by the
flickering light of the fireplace while one sips tea. These are often tales
where the gut churns with physical fear and one can smell the scent of murder
on the night wind. While not present in every single story, these characters
are often desperately clinging to life in situations where the price each day
for existing to another sunrise is to kill before being killed. A mix of
styles, locations, and crimes makes Tough 2: Crime Stories an enjoyable
and often complicated read.
Tough 2: Crime Stories
Editor Rusty Barnes
ARC PDF supplied by Editor Rusty Barnes with no expectation of a
The latest published read from Barry Ergang is a short story. Originally published in 1982 in Stereophile Magazine , his short story, ...
Supporting The Blog
In my wife's memory and honoring a promise I made to Sandi, the blog continues...at least for now. If you would like to make a donation of support, you can do so at the links below. Most of the donated funds go to the purchase of medical supplies for me. Some of it goes to the purchase of various short story anthologies and collections which eventually are read and reviewed here.