Thursday, July 30, 2009

Road Dogs - Review

This is my first Elmore Leonard. I am not one to read the work of our master's. Chandler, Hammett, et al. I have trouble reading books I buy this year. The idea of stepping back to read the admitted great works of even the last 25 years is mind boggling to me. So, I'll admit that what attracted me to the book was the continuing adventures of Bank Robber Jack Foley, as I believe the film adaptation to be a masterpiece.

ROAD DOGS follows Jack as he finally, legally, makes it out of prison. While riding out the last three years of sentence he strikes up a friendship with Cundo Rey. Rey is yet another character from the Leonard universe to make an appearance. Rey wants Jack to keep an eye on his wife who Rey worries may not be faithful. Jack feels obligated to Rey for helping to reduce his sentense, so Jack goes to Venice, California to keep an eye on Dawn... or is it vice versa?

Laconic is about the best word to describe the plot, prose, and characters. It is easy to see why Mr. Leonard is revered as perhaps the greatest crime fiction novelist. Everything about the book has the feel of a worn in pair of jeans. Easy, effortless. The book is like a conversation with an old friend you could spend the whole night with. The hand of the writer is always there but never intrusive, always organic. The book for right or for wrong does lack a certain amount narrative propulsion. It certainly lends the book an authenticity, but occasionally I was left wonder where this was all going.

Mr. Leonard hardly needs this review to champion his work, but if you are looking for a good Sunday afternoon read. ROAD DOGS won't steer you wrong.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Murder and Mayhem in Muskego 2009

Last year I attended the 4th incarnation of the Murder and Mayhem in Muskego event. Hopefully it will serve as the one and only time I see a gun discharged in a Library. I'll keep you posted.

The one day conference is a great way to see a lot of authors without the financial commitment of the longer gatherings. The event organizers Jon and Ruth Jordan, along with the Muskego Library, have recently updated the event website, and also posted news about the event on the Crimespree blog Central Crime Zone. It is another great line-up of authors. A strong list of Chicago based authors will be in attendance along with James O. Born, C.J. Box, Jeffrey Deaver, Barry Eisler Laura Lippman, and Michael Koryta .

The Hungry Detective is not sure he can attend this year's one day hullabalou. THD recently joined a Gym, plus the roof needs work......

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

CWA Dagger Awards 2009

Sort of a mini crush of Crime Fictions Awards this last week. There were the Thriller Fest Awards handed out on Sunday. Congratulations to Jeffrey Deaver, Tom Rob Smith, and Alexandra Sokloff.

Today saw the announcement of the first half of the Crime Writers Association (CWA) Awards for 2009. Winners are in Red. Highly Recommended, a kind of second place, are in Blue.

Official announcement here.

The CWA International Dagger

Shadow - Karin Alvtegen, translated by McKinley Burnett, (Canongate)
The Arctic Chill - Arnaldur Indriðason, translated by Bernard Scudder and Victoria Cribb (Harvill Secker)
The Girl Who Played with Fire - Stieg Larsson, translated by Reg Keeland (MacLehose Quercus)
The Redeemer - Jo Nesbø, translated by Don Bartlett (Harvill Secker)
Echos from the Dead - Johan Theorin, translated by Marlaine Delargy (Doubleday)
The Chalk Circle Man - Fred Vargas, translated by Siân Reynolds (Harvill Secker)

The CWA Short Story Dagger

Speaking of Lust - Lawrence Block, from Crime Express series (Five Leaves Publications)
One Serving of Bad Luck Sean Chercover, from Killer Year (Mira)
Cougar - Laura Lippman, from Two of the Deadliest (Hodder & Stoughton)
The Price of Love - Peter Robinson, from The Blue Religion (Quercus)
Served Cold - Zoë Sharp, from The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime (Constable & Robinson)
Mother’s Milk - Chris Simms, from The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime (Constable & Robinson)

The CWA Dagger in the Library
Award is given to an Author's body work rather than a single work

Simon Becket
Colin Cotterill
RJ Ellory
Peter James
Michael Robotham

The CWA Debut Dagger
Award is given to '...anyone who has not yet had a novel published commercially'

Frank Burkett - A View From the Clock Tower (Australia)
Aoife Clifford - My First Big Book of Murder (Australia)
CJ Harper - Backdrop (USA)
Madeleine Harris-Callway - The Land of Sun and Fun (Canada)
Renata Hill - Sex, Death, and Chocolate (Canada)
Mick Laing - The Sirius Patrol (UK)
Susan Lindgren - Forgotten Treasure (USA)
Catherine O’Keefe - The Pathologist (Canada)
Danielle Ramsay - Paterfamilias (UK)
Germaine Stafford - A Vine Time for Trouble (Italy)
Martin Ungless - Idiot Wind (UK)
Alan Wright - Murder at the Seance (UK)

The CWA give out Awards periodically throughout the year. Andrew Taylor recently received the Cartier Diamond Award. In the Fall they will give Awards for the Gold , Ian Flemming, and John Creasey (New Blood) Daggers.

The Hungry Detective extents his congratulations to all the nominees, and the eventual winners.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Killer Summer - Review

The thriller novel is most susceptible to the hyperbolic pull quote. As a reader I generally react pretty poorly to things like 'The action never lets up!' Because the minute the action does let up not only does the person blurbing the book sound ridiculous, but the book lets me down.

KILLER SUMMER by Ridley Pearson is just one of those thrillers. A book that starts fast and is never meant to let up. But this is not possible as ever increasing intensity always leads to ever increasing amounts of unbelievability. What can be appreciated about Mr. Pearson's book is the length to which he seems to go to protect the stories credibility. Let's face it, on the surface most thrillers strain credulity from page one, but it is what happens inside the heightened air of the suspense thriller that can pull a reader into or out of the story. There is escapist entertainment and brain dead stupidity. Mr. Pearson never allows KILLER SUMMER to fall into the later category.

The plot, in broad strokes, concerns a group of thieves who are out to heist something during a charity wine auction in Sunnyvale, Idaho. Sheriff Walt Fleeming returns in the third book in this series, and not surprisingly it turns personal very quickly. Mr. Pearson writing displays his obvious talents for action set piece. A plane crash and a river rapids rescue are all rendered quite vividly for the reader. On the character level there is a lot to sink your teeth into. I think the various Father-Son engagements and entanglements are well done without being sappy, preachy or moralizing.

What doesn't work so well here are the rather flat villains that confront Walt in his struggle to set the world right. We are provided with the barest of details about their personal character and combined with their deeds are meant to see them as worthy opponents to Sheriff Flemming. But this never really comes off as well as it should. The success of any thriller generally lies in the readers secret desire to see them succeed over our hero.

This, however, does not diminish the book too greatly as KILLER SUMMER more than fulfilled this readers expectations of a suspense thriller that scratches more than just the surface of entertainment.

Monday, July 06, 2009

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Review

As book reviews go THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is hardly in need of another.

What can I say, it is a great book, but not without its problems. The central story of a long missing girl is fabulous, that is until Larsson tires of it and wraps it up a little too conveniently.

[Spoiler: Highlight to read] T

The two main characters happen upon two separate pieces of information that essentially solves the crime at the same time is difficult to believe in the context of the story. Up til now the reader has been lead to believe that the missing girl's Great Uncle has pursued this case relentlessly for the last 40 years. That he could not have come upon similar information was hard for me to swallow.

Ultimately this is a minor quibble as it is all written fantastically. I think I am just expressing my disappointment that it was coming to an end because until then the book and this story of long dead family secrets is enthralling. DRAGON TATTOO certainly does not lack for scope. It pleased me to no end that Mr. Larsson seemed to manage the careful act of story and character. In the eternal debate of character vs. story. Character in Crime Fiction has been great, really wonderful from a number of author over the last few years. However, I have certainly felt that the story end has suffered in Crime Fiction.

What does not work so well is the bookend story that begins and end the DRAGON TATTOO. In the beginning I see the point of it all. It certainly sets up our lead character Mikael. It is a bit long, the story of Mikael's fall from grace after losing a libel case for publishing an article on a Swedish industrialist. However, I'm a sucker for character and story details so I did not mind too much. But as that story of the missing girl is resolved there was still nearly 100 pages to go in the book.

[Spoiler: Highlight to read]

These pages detail how Mikael exacts his 'revenge' against the Swedish industrialist with another article and book, this time proving his corruption. Truth wins out over injustice, but this sequence is written in an almost dream like scenario. The resolution could not work out any better for Mikael if he tried, and it rings absolutely false.

Let me state very clearly that this does not undo what I think is a fabulous book. Just that these sections play as an agenda of the author and not an organic element of the book. The second of the series releases in the US on the 28th of July.