Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Beginnings - Preview

In the Noe Valley neighborhood of San Francisco is a Chris Cosentino's restaurant, Incanto. I've eaten there once. It was yummy. I'm headed back to San Francisco in a month and will partake in Mr. Cosentino's 9th annual Head to Tail Dinner. As the tile alludes, Mr. Cosentino is a proponent of offal. Many are put off by this kind of cooking. I am less concerned with what goes into the food, and more concerned with how it tastes. Notably Mr. Cosentino has written a book on the topic that as yet has gone unpublished. 

BEGINNINGS as one might surmise is all about the first course. Like most Italian cooking these days, the book will focus on simple rustic food preparation to begin a meal. I'm excited for this book, and hope it is the first of many for this charismatic Chef. The book is being published by Weldon Owen. It releases May 8th.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Fifth Witness - Review

Michael Connelly hunted around for Micky Haller for a bit. There were a few stand-alone works, but other than THE POET and BLOOD WORK (and maybe CHASING THE DIME) they were almost excessively exercises to keep the creative engine alive.

THE FIFTH WITNESS is the fourth book in the Mickey Haller Series, and finds Connelly in a groove with this character and the larger narrative of Mickey's world. Mickey has fallen on difficult times as he is representing clients whose homes are being foreclosed. It is tedious work, but it pays the bills. Mickey is itching for something new and exciting. He gets in spades when a client is charged with murdering a bank executive. Down the path Mickey will go with his close cadre of support. For Mickey guilt or innocence has little to do with justice, and everything to do with playing every angle of the system with an unshakable belief that the prosecution is exploiting the system in the exact same way.

Of course this moral ambiguity shades all of the Haller stories. While it has allowed Mr. Connelly to build layered stories and characters that live in a very real world, I have to admit that there is something wholly more satisfying about Harry Bosch's righteous execution in a world of good and evil. It seems odd to say that I have always found the Mickey Haller books to be realistically pessimistic. Everyone is compromised, it just depends the amount of dirt that weighs you down. The Bosch books are generally darker affairs, but with Harry there is this ray of hope, this desire for a life of grace.

My preference aside THE FIFTH WITNESS is still an expertly rendered story. Crime Fiction generally gets a bad rap because of its genre trappings, but they are still a reflection of the society in which they were created. And to that end, Mr Connelly documents the desperation of people at the end of a very dark rope.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Two Death of Daniel Hayes - Review

I remember back to Mr. Sakey's first book, THE BLADE ITSELF. It was exciting. Along with Sean Chercover, Mr Sakey was new and very good. He wrote a lean thriller that was high on actual thrills and low on preposterous male testosterone fantasies. His characters where regular guys who were caught up in circumstance. One of the reasons Mr. Sakey's books have worked for me is that simple fact. He didn't write about bitter former FBI agents with a dizzying array of ways to kill me. But for a stupid decision here or careless remark there you could be a character in a Mr. Sakey's novel. 

THE TWO DEATHS OF DANIEL HAYES is the latest from Mr. Sakey and it has stiff competition. His previous opus, THE AMATEURS, ranks as one of the few books I read in one sitting. To write that THE AMATEURS was engrossing is an understatement. So how does TWO DEATHS match up? Sadly, it is the lesser, and as I look back over Mr. Sakey's three other books I have to say it comes up short there as well.

Daniel wakes up on a beach in Maine. He is cold, wet and devoid of much of his memory. He pieces a few clues together. The car nearby is his, and with California plates he realizes he is far from home. He makes it back to California only to discover that he is suspect number one in the murder of his actress wife. Complicating the issue is a shadowy figure, Bennett, who is hellbent on discovering the whereabouts of a missing necklace, and assumes Daniel knows the location. A young women, Belinda, is also prowling around the periphery of both men while she hides a secret that will change everything.

That secret is revealed about two-thirds of the way through the book, and it does in fact change everything. The reveal is handled well, and when it does come it is a bit of shock. Mr. Sakey has always used these game changing moments to their fullest effect. They are a challenge to the reader's expectations. In this case, he literally gets to take the narrative of TWO DEATHS in another direction. And it works... for awhile.

The cause for concern here are the three main characters of TWO DEATHS. Daniel is, well, kind of douche. He is not particularly engaging, and comes off as a surface and shallow individual. The 'Every Man' quality that works for Mr. Sakey's lead characters is just flat-out missing here. Bennett is the kind of character that I have come to really dislike in thrillers. Every response, whether with words or a gun, is always so polished and practiced. Tens steps ahead of everyone and deathly boring because of it. Belinda is perhaps the most complex of the bunch. She has actual secrets, and until Mr. Sakey reveals them the passages with her are easily the best of the book. However, once her ultimate secret is given up, Belinda like Daniel and Bennett loses her reason for being.

I'll close by writing this. I still enjoyed this book a great deal. Mr. Sakey is an accomplished storyteller, and TWO DEATHS is no different. For me, the guts of this book did not work, but its construction is without question top notch, like clockwork. And as I explained to a friend, lesser Marcus Sakey is still better than most everyone else.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

2012 Barry Nominations

Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine announced their Barry Award Nominations yesterday. The awards will be handed out at this year's Cleveland B'Con. The Hungry Detective congratulates all of the nominees.  

Best Novel
The Keeper of Lost Causes (aka Mercy) - Jussi Adler-Olsen - Dutton
The Accident Linwood Barclay - Bantam
The Hurt Machine - Reed Farrel Coleman - Tyrus
Iron House - John Hart - Minotaur
Hell Is Empty - Craig Johnson - Viking
The Troubled Man - Henning Mankell - Knopf

Best First Novel:
Learning to Swim - Sara Henry - Crown
The Devotion of Suspect X - Keigo Higashino - Minotaur
The Boy in the Suitcase - Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete FriisSoho Crime
Turn of Mind - Alice LaPlante - Atlantic Monthly
The Informationist - Taylor Stevens - Crown
Before I Go to Sleep - S.J. Watson - Harper

Best British Novel:
Now You See Me - S.J. Bolton - Bantam Press
Hell’s Bells, (aka The Infernals) - John Connolly - Hodder & Stoughton
Bad Signs - R.J. Ellory - Orion
The House at Sea’s End - Elly Griffiths - Quercus
Outrage - Arnaldur Indriðason - Harvill Secker
Dead Man’s Grip - Peter James - Macmillan

Best Paperback Original:
The Silenced - Brett Battles - Dell
The Hangman’s Daughter - Oliver Pötzsch - Mariner Books
A Double Death on the Black Isle - A.D. Scott - Atria
Death of the Mantis - Michael Stanley - Harper Perennial
Fun and Games - Duane Swierczynski - Mulholland
Two for Sorrow - Nicola Upson - Harper Perennial

Best Thriller:
Carver - Tom Cain - Bantam Press
Coup D’Etat - Ben Coes - St. Martin’s

Spycatcher (aka Spartan) - Matthew Dunn - Morrow
Ballistic - Mark Greaney - Berkley
House Divided - Mike Lawson - Atlantic Monthly
The Informant - Thomas Perry - Houghton Mifflin

Best Short Story:
“Thicker Than Blood” - Doug AllynAlfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, September 2011
“The Gun Also Rises" - Jeffrey CohenAHMMJanuary-February 2011
“Whiz Bang" - Mike CooperEllery Queen Mystery Magazine, September-October 2011
“Facts Exhibiting Wantonness" - Trina Corey - EQMMNovember 2011
“Last Laugh in Floogle Park" - James PowellEQMM, July 2011
“Purge" - Eric RutterAHMM, December 2011

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Just a quick review of BRUNO, CHIEF OF POLICE that has been hanging around for a bit. I enjoyed the book in spite of myself its seems.

So there is a photo stolen from the scene of a brutal murder, and there is also a portentous meeting between bitter rivals. That pretty much signals all that you need to know to figure out the who and why behind the mystery of BRUNO, CHIEF OF POLICE. After this Bruno spends his time explaining why he is powerless to investigate the murder, he plays a couple tennis matches and attends three dinner party's, as well as a picnic. Plus he picks up an attractive lady friend in that way that unattractive French men tend to do. Eventually with 50 pages to go, Bruno finds a reason to sort out the murder in almost the exact way you have been waiting for him to do since chapter three.

You would think that this aimless wandering around, and paint by numbers mystery plotting would signal doom for BRUNO, CHIEF OF POLICE. It doesn't though and maybe that is the best mystery of this book. If ever there was one BRUNO, CHIEF OF POLICE is more about the journey than the destination. A short book at just over 260 pages, the author Martin Walker seems to know just when to pull the trigger on his narrative. I may have left wanting, but I still somehow enjoyed all that was laid out before me.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Humphrey Slocombe Ice Cream Book - Preview

About a year ago, nearly to the day, a friend of my walked me to the rather unassuming outpost of  Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream in the city of San Francisco. When I am in Shake Town I eat, a lot. Sadly what flavor of ice cream I chose is now lost to time. However, I remember being taken by the wonderfully fanciful concoctions, and thankful that I was not lactose intolerant.  

So there is some excitement that a cookbook is in the offing from these Bay Area iced milk purveyors. There is a nice little write up and a recipe to boot over at Wired. A bunch of years ago a few other friends gave me the money to by a Cuisnart ice cream maker. Hmmm...

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

World's Greatest Sleuth - Review

I know you are tired of hearing about it, but I assure you that I am just as tired, if not more so, of dealing with my crime fiction malaise. In an effort to rebuild my confidence in a genre that I love I decided to focus on the authors that have provided steady companionship through the years.

If you are keeping score at home...and there is no reason to think that you are.... Steve Hockensmith has proven pretty reliable for The Hungry Detective. THE WORLD'S GREATEST SLEUTH is Steve's latest effort following cowpoke investigators Gustav and Otto Amlingmeyer. Our fearless duo find themselves in Chicago during the waning days of the Colombian Exposition. The reason is a contest to determine who in fact, now that Sherlock Holmes is dead, is the world's greatest sleuth. Along with a handful of other amateurs Gustav and Otto traipse around the White City trying to solve riddles that will lead them to golden eggs, and eventual victory. Of course when the organizer of the contest ends up dead on a mountain cheese the real contest begins.

I think what has always drawn me to this series is Mr. Hockensmith's wonderful attention to location. Whether it is the locked room aspect of a train in ON THE WRONG TRACK, or San Francisco's Chinatown in THE BLACK DOVE Mr. Hockensmith deftly creates detailed spaces to draw a reader into this world. With THE WORLD'S GREATEST SLEUTH Mr. Hockensmith has his largest canvas. If you have ever seen photos of the Colombian Exposition then you know what a marvel of creation it really was.

Of course the other thing that works in these books is the good humored Otto and his taciturn bother Gustav. Mr. Hockensmith has always been able to find the gentle balance of brothers, competitors, and friends. They are winning couple of cowboys and so by extension is THE WORLD'S GREATEST SLEUTH.  

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Lucky Peach 3 Preview

Cover for Lucky Peach Three showed up yesterday. Issue 2 was kind of 'Meh'. That issue's concentration on the topic of the 'sweet spot' was far too intangible to build any kind of critical mass. It was more hodgepodge than anything else. Still it is a fun magazine, and one that you should check out if you have an interest in food, or food related matters, or swearing in print.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Books Received - January 2012

It is the good fortune of The Hungry Detective to now and again receive books from authors, publishers or their associated marketing agencies.

These books were received in the month of January 2012

ON BORROWED TIME - David Rosenfelt - Minotaur Books
EYES OF THE INNOCENT - Brad Parks - Minotaur/Thomas Dunne Books
THE JANSON COMMAND - Paul Garrison - Grand Central Publishing
A PARLIAMENT OF SPIES - Cassandra Clark - Minotaur Books
DYING IN THE WOOL - Frances Brody - Minotaur Thomas Dunne Books
HEART OF A KILLER - David Rosenfelt - Minotaur Books