by Joe Flanagan (Europa Editions, 2016) is an astonishing piece of noir fiction.
Bill Warren, its protagonist, is surrounded by corruption in his small Cape Cod
town of 1957, yet he remains convinced of the need to be an honest, fair, and upright
human being. Bill is the acting police chief in Barnstable while the police
chief is on medical leave. He is the sole support of a disabled son since his
alcoholic wife wandered away years ago; he’s trying hard to care for young Mike
while doing his best on the job. His rectitude backfires on him sometimes, as
when he discovered the antique store owned by a gay couple is being robbed but
no one on his force responds to the reports. He investigates himself and finds
the thief to be the son of one of the selectmen, who threatens him with his job
if he doesn’t close the case. While he damages his standing with the very
people who can give him the chief of police position permanently, he is able to
return the latest stolen items to the store owners, much to their surprise and
Someone is killing young boys on Bill’s turf.
His team turns out in full force only to have a publicity-hungry State Police
captain sweep the case out from under them. Another family disappears after
they reported violent treatment by a local group of gamblers in an attempt to
collect money. An investigation of the bar that fronts the gambling den links
the group to organized crime in Boston. Bill organizes a raid on the place,
only to find it cleaned out and the pigeons flown – someone within his own team
is feeding them information.
There are some great characters here. The local
politicians are deliciously seedy. The pedophiles pulled in for interviews are
skin-crawlingly creepy. A doctor trolling for patients to try his new drug on
betrayed every ethic of his job. A prominent subplot involves Father Boyle, a
sad priest who believes he’s lost his faith and his calling but he continues to
carry out his duties at the local hospital and the school for disabled children
run by a group of nuns. Father Boyle has a confused past; his grasp on reality
doesn’t seem to be firmly in place. He’s deeply committed to the children in
the school, where they are delighted to see him on his visits. I held my breath
waiting for him to be accused of the murders. Like Bill Warren, he would have
been unable to defend himself. Instead the subplot resolves unexpectedly in
possibly the most unusual way I can remember in crime fiction.
This book is deeply dark and violent, showing
humanity at its absolute worst at moments. I nearly stopped reading midway. The
writing and the story became so compelling I was driven to learn how it all
ended and a wonderful ending full of optimism it is. Publishers Weekly starred
Europa Editions; First Edition (March 1, 2016)
House of X, Powers
of X by Jonathan Hickman collects two miniseries that set up the
current status quo for the new X-Men titles under the umbrella title of Dawn
of X. This book collects twelve issues- six for each miniseries.
Professor X no longer believes in
coexistence with humanity. He no longer believes that the X-men should fight
for a world where humans and mutants live in peace side by side. Someone has
changed his mind and he no longer thinks the human race is worth saving or can
be saved. Professor X is no longer the man X-men fans have known. His idealism
is gone. He is now a cold cynic when it comes to the human race. Professor X
will protect mutants and his X-men at all costs and is not at all concerned
about the fate of humanity. Alongside Magneto and the X-Men, Professor X has
set out to create his own nation for all mutants. This book features nearly
everyone in the mutant realm along with cameos by the Avengers and the Fantastic
This book is mostly about Professor X,
Magneto, and one other character that can not be named here without spoiling
some of the book. Wolverine, Cyclops, Emma Frost, Nightcrawler, Jean Grey and many
more have their moments in this book. This book features nearly everyone in the
mutant realm along with cameos by the Avengers and the Fantastic Four.
As should be clear from the initial
premise, there are lots of radical changes made in this tale to do something
original that has not been done before. If you are a long term reader of the X-Men
comics, you know that for the last ten or so years the writers have been
playing with the same themes and utilizing mostly the same set of ideas. While
some of that has generated great writing, there has been a ton of mediocre writing
because it is hard to do something different when everyone is doing the same
sort of themes.
House of X, Powers of X by Jonathan
Hickman is a radical change in the X-men status quo which may or may not work
for you. Personally, I enjoyed because it was something different and I am a
fan of Hickman’s writing. For the most part I like his stuff even though it
often seems that he makes things so complicated that it can be hard to keep
If you are familiar with Hickman’s
previous work you know he loves to utilize time travel or multiple timelines,
alien civilizations, flawed heroes with huge plans, complicated world building,
and more. Hickman loves to write heavy sci-fi. He loves to write how the
decision made by one or more prominent leaders on a team can change everything
in a world. All of his usual elements are very apparent here.
Hickman has written the Avengers, the Fantastic
Four and is now doing the X-Men. That means that thing, the normal status quo,
is over for the foreseeable future for the X-Men. These X-men are similar to
the ones most fans know but the change to Professor X has rippled across the X-Men
group and they all look at the world far differently than the past way most
House of X, Powers of X by Jonathan Hickman is not for fans
who can’t accept widely different interpretations of a character. If you are
not okay with having stories where both the “good” and “evil” side are correct
in their views from their perspectives and therefore are doing morally grey
things that make sense from their perspectives, this is not the book for you.
If you have an open mind and are an X-Men fan who likes a heavy dose of science
fiction, you should enjoy this book. The art is amazing and the story is epic.
Another cool aspect of the book assuming you like world building is all the
charts, maps, documents that help support the tale and set up the new world for
recommend House of X, Powers of X by Jonathan Hickman.
My hardback reading copy came from the Central
Downtown Branch of the Dallas Public Library System.
SECRET by Rory Clements, reviewed by John Cleal
American history professor Tom Wilde is asked to smuggle a mysterious package
out of wartime Nazi Germany – something so secret, even Hitler doesn’t know
what it is!
Jo Nesbo, reviewed by Viv Beeby
Harry Hole's life is in chaos and when a deranged and vengeful enemy strikes at
the very heart of it then Harry must face his darkest hour.
A DISTANCE by Ben Aaronovitch and Andrew Cartmel, reviewed by
of an old friend takes both Nightingale and Peter Grant on a trip down memory
WITHOUT SKIN by Mads Peder Nordbo, reviewed by Ewa Sherman
discovery of a mummified body on the edge of an ice sheet in Greenland leads to
the re-opening of an unsolved case from 1970s. Danish journalist Matthew Cave
and a young woman released from prison after serving a sentence for killing her
family delve into the shocking and brutal past.
CONFIDENTIAL by Martin Limon, reviewed by Chris Roberts
Army CID agents Sueno and Bascom investigate a South Korean bank robbery which
has all the hallmarks of military involvement.
MOTHERS by Erin Kelly, reviewed by Kati Barr-Taylor
husband has bought a convenient pied-à-terre. But it’s the key to a dark past
that should have remained buried.
HESITATES by Georges Simenon, reviewed by John Cleal
Inspector Maigret receives a series of anonymous letters threatening murder in
the household of an eminent lawyer.
TWO EVILS by Eva Dolan, reviewed by Linda Wilson
doctor at an women’s detention centre is murdered, there are no immediate
suspects but plenty of people who seem to be putting roadblocks in the way of
the latest investigation for Peterborough cops DI Zigic and DS Ferreira.
WOMAN IN THE FOREST by Diane Les Becquets, reviewed by Ewa Sherman
offered an opportunity to work with rescue dogs on environmental projects and
falls under the spell of her mentor Tate. Several months later after Tate’s
tragic death she realises that he might have been responsible for the unsolved
murders of at least four women.
OF REFUGE by Ausma Zehanat Khan, reviewed by Chris Roberts
Khattak and Rachel Getty travel to a Greek island where a friend working to aid
refugees has disappeared.
VANISHED BRIDE by Bella Ellis, reviewed by John Cleal
three Brontë sisters hear that a young women has gone missing from her home
leaving no clue but a pool of blood, they decide to investigate.
WHISPER MAN by Alex North, reviewed by Linda Wilson
Kennedy and his young son Jake are making a fresh start away from the grief
associated with the house where Tom’s wife died. Tom doesn’t expect to be
plunged into another nightmare when Featherbank proves not to be the safe haven
he’s expected for a boy of Jake’s age.
DOOR by JP Carter, reviewed by Kati Barr-Taylor
Anna Tate looks down on the body of the brutally murdered girl, she cannot know
people on high will soon be looking down on her every move.
by Catherine Steadman, reviewed by Chris Roberts
A man is
washed up on a Norfolk beach with only vestiges of memory. Neuropsychiatrist
Emma Lewis is asked to help, but returning to Norfolk will bring her
face-to-face with a past she is keen to forget.
LIES by Ted Denton, reviewed by John Cleal
Ratchet, a rookie golf agent, discovers that the Russian gas company sponsoring
the tournament and fixing results is also on the verge of tying up a mega deal
with the British government. Lone wolf ex-SAS man Tom Hunter must save him.
WELCOME by DK Fields, reviewed by John Barnbrook
United Realms there are no elections, instead each year the leading group is
chosen by picking which of them tells the most compelling story. This year, one
of the storytellers is murdered and fear /and suspicion grows.
IN NEW YORK by Sylvia Bishop, reviewed by Linda Wilson
Creedon doesn’t just want to deliver the news, he wants to write about it, and
not just in his school newspaper. When he gets the chance to visit the offices
of the Morning Yorker, he doesn’t realise quite how dangerous his life is about
THE LAW by William A Graham, reviewed by John Cleal
Linton is hired by his former wife, a top lawyer, to help prove the innocence
of his boyhood friend – now the city’s major drugs dealer – found with £2
million worth of cocaine in his car.
GODFATHER by Gianni Russo with Patrick Picciarelli, reviewed by
autobiography of Gianni Russo, who lived as a gangster both in real life and in
the movies, and rubbed shoulders with the cream of Hollywood.
MOTHER, SOMEBODY’S DAUGHTER by Carol Ann Lee, reviewed by Kati
stories from victims and survivors of the Yorkshire Ripper.
I first told you about this book back
long ago in 2009. I told you again about Tilt A
Whirl: The John Ceepak Mysteries Book 1 by Chris Grabenstein in 2016. Earlier
this week, Aubrey Hamilton told everyone her
perspective about one of my favorite series. It seemed like that was a sign
that I should mention again this read where mystery, humor, and more are at work. For the rest of
the reading suggestions for this date, check out Todd Mason’s Sweet
Sea Haven, New Jersey
is an eighteen mile long barrier island consisting of motels, beach houses,
bait shops, etc. For twenty-four year old Danny Boyle it is home and he works
part time as an unarmed summer cop who helps with the influx of tourists in the
muggy summer months. He just never expected to work a murder scene.
But, that is exactly
what quickly happens because Danny also serves as the driver for John Ceepak.
Ceepak used to be a military policeman, spent time in Iraq, and has been forced
to deal with some really bad guys on more than one occasion. War is hell and
Ceepak has lived it and has the memories. Ceepak is the man you want to follow
into battle and is the man you want on your side. He lives by “The Code” that
few these days can understand let alone follow.
The blonde girl, about
thirteen years old, wearing a blood soaked dress and screaming as she comes up
an avenue towards The Pancake Palace early one morning is a reminder that few
live by Ceepak’s code. She is Ashley Hart, the daughter of Reginald and Betty
Hall Heart. Betty Hall used to be on the local TV as the bubbly weather person.
Reginald Hart was a businessman and real estate developer who did some rather
unorthodox things and was very wealthy. Now, he is very dead having been gunned
down on the Tilt-A-Whirl ride while sitting next to his daughter. The fact that
the ride at the Sunnyside Play Land wasn’t even open yet this Saturday morning
isn’t going to matter to the media or scared tourists. The fact that a crazed
killer is wandering around the area is a chamber of commerce disaster and Chief
Cosgrove wants it solved fast. He puts Ceepak and by extension his driver,
Boyle, on the case. Murder is just the start of a twisting tale that ultimately
leads to a horrifying conclusion.
Told at a fast pace,
this is a read that quickly pulls the reader into the quirks of location and
character. Both elements quickly come to life for the reader as back story is
skillfully woven into dialogue and the occasional flashback. In a departure
from most mysteries, the story is told in the first person from the Danny
Boyle’s perspective while the real protagonist is Ceepak. This allows readers to
get deeper into the Ceepak character because he is being observed while also
getting a good idea of Danny’s character. It also works with the other
characters that are never cardboard cutouts and instead are usually realistic
and sometimes a bit quirky.
As some have noted,
the cover does not remotely do justice to the book. Hot pink in background the
cover prominently features a rollercoaster and not the ride depicted in the
book. Though, there is a rollercoaster ride at the mythical Sunnyside Play Land
so there is a vague link. While the design created by Michael Fusco seems very
wrong, it does bring glances and inquires from folks when the book is out in
public. More than one neighbor came over to see what I was working on now
because they had spotted the cover as I sat reading on my apartment porch.
Sometimes they came over at the most inopportune times.
The bottom line here
is this is a book that fires on all cylinders and takes the reader on a very
good ride. Sometimes funny, sometimes dark, this is a novel that quickly
becomes riveting and one of the best I have read in a very long time. Start of
a series, this is a very good one and a book you simply have to read.
Book provided by the
author in exchange for my objective review.
Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Eve Ronin did not make working
homicide by putting her years in and working her way up the ranks. She did it
the old fashioned way by taking advantage of her sudden celebrity status. That
happened at a very good time for her as the Sheriff needed to exploit her for
some good press for the department.
by many, Eve Ronin is now the youngest homicide detective in the department’s
history. She is acutely aware of how other sees her as well as her own lack of
knowledge. She is determined to learn as fast as possible and not fail. Easier
said than done, because the odds are stacked
The slights come in many ways and that may include the fact that
she has been paired with the soon to be retired Duncan Pavone. Detective Pavone
is literally counting the days--163 when the book begins--to his retirement
though it is clear to her that he cared at one time about doing the job. He has
a lot to teach her and the first lessons of her crash course soon arrive by way
of a crime scene straight out of a horror movie nightmare.
outside ranch home deep in Topanga Canyon just looks old and neglected, the inside
is splattered with blood on nearly every surface. Tanya Kenworth is not to be
found in the house, nor are her two kids, Caitlin and Troy. The kids are ten
and eleven. From the scene inside the home, Detective Pavone and Ronin are
pretty sure they are dead and dismembered. Where they are and who is responsible
is the focus of Lost Hills by Lee Goldberg.
This is a
fast moving read that reminds one of the Ballard series by Michael Connelly.
It is therefore not surprising that he provides a blurb that is splashed across
the bottom of the front jacket of the book. For those well versed in police
procedurals or crime fiction in general, there are times that the book comes
across a bit simplistic, such as explaining the construction and use of “flash
bangs.” There is a certain made for television style to the read and one can
easily see how it could be done for Amazon streaming at some point in the
same time, despite the obvious clichés and what not, Lost Hills, is a fun and
fast moving read that keeps the reader fully engaged. It spins a complex tale
rapidly and throws enough misdirection at the reader that some of the clichés
do not bother as much as they would in the hands of a less talented writer. The
result is that Lost Hills by Lee Goldberg is worth your time.
book in the series, Bone Canyon, is currently scheduled to be released January 5,
My reading copy came from my childhood haunt, the Audelia
Road Branch of the Dallas Public Library System.
Chris Grabenstein is a wildly talented guy.
After attending the University of Tennessee, he moved to New York City where he
performed with improvisational comedy ensembles for several years. His next
career move was to write advertising copy for James Patterson. After that he
began publishing fiction in earnest. He’s published more than 40 children’s
books. He has won many awards, including the 2006 Anthony Award for Best First
Novel for his debut mystery featuring Iraqi war veteran John Ceepak. It’s
been seven years since the latest and quite possibly last title in this
eight-book series was published, and it may be time for those who overlooked it
to give these books another look.
In Tilt-a-Whirl (Carroll & Graf, 2005) we
meet former MP John Ceepak, just back from a horrific tour of duty in the
Middle East. He joins the Sea Haven police force for the summer to give himself
a break. Sea Haven, New Jersey, is on a barrier island swarming with tourists
and vacationers during the summer. What ordinarily is a small quiet town is
overrun by sun-seeking humanity then. Ceepak is an Eagle Scout and committed to
upright behavior. He will not lie, cheat or steal, nor tolerate anyone who
does. He makes a profound impression upon Danny Boyle, the 24-year-old naïve narrator
of the book, who joins the police force to augment the staff needed to handle
the summer crowds.
Ceepak and Boyle are leaving a breakfast diner
early one morning when a 12-year-old girl covered with blood comes running down
the street. She tells them her father has been killed in the nearby amusement
park. Ceepak rushes to the scene, while Boyle takes the girl to an unopened
store to question her and get her out of the potential view of the shooter.
Ceepak discovers the body of the local land development czar, whose business
tactics left something to be desired. His enemies were legion, so the cast of
suspects is substantial. Instead of taking a break from violence, Ceepak’s
police experience make him a natural lead investigator of the homicide that is
followed by a kidnapping.
Fresh characters, original setting, complex
plot. Recommended to mystery readers who overlooked this series earlier or who
are looking for something new to read. Booklist starred review.
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.