|Posted on November 23, 2013 at 3:45 PM||comments (0)|
Grind Joint realizes the promises made in Dana King's first two excellent crime novels, Wild Bill and Worst Enemies.
First to the reader, in the most vivid yet readable entry in the crime author's catalog. Even the most degenerate lowlife - and there are plenty of them in this tale of casinos, cops, cash and corruption - lives and breathes in the writing. With a large roster of characters, this easily could've become bogged down. But King's tight prose is such that it can accomplish in two sentences something that could've eaten two pages.
That keeps the action flowing forward from the first page onward. King's done this before in other novels, but this time the urgency is as built in as part of the setting. There's a death before the first 1,000 words is up.
That may have something to do with the publisher, Stark House Press. It's about damn time someone figured out what a great writer King is in this genre. Wild Bill and Worst Enemies set the scene for this debut with Stark House, and things couldn't have turned out better.
If mob fiction is your thing, and even if it isn't, Grind Joint is a great crime novel to get lost inside. From the small things, like the way the police officers talk to each other, all the way up to the grand schemes at the heart of the story, Grind Joint is a mob fiction must. You'll never gamble at a casino again without looking over your shoulder.
Click here to order the paperback of Grind Joint from Amazon. Author King tells me an e-book version is coming soon, too.
Check Out My Other Reviews of Crime Novels by Dana King
|Posted on September 15, 2013 at 10:55 PM||comments (0)|
Vincent Zandri's bread-and-butter is the crime fiction genre. His brand as a novelist has more to do with brash private investigators Dick Moonlight and Keeper Marconi than chasing down archeological relics.
In The Shroud Key, thriller writer/sandhog/treasure hunter/private investigator (more about all those slashes later) Chase Baker is on the hunt for the physical bones of Jesus Christ. Or, more accurately, he's looking for a missing archeologist whom was kidnapped to find the bones. The key to finding both is encoded on the Shroud of Turin. Baker heads to an Egypt still adjusting to an Islamic revolution and gets to work.
Without reading anything more than the previous paragraph, readers will inevitably be making mental comparisons between The Shroud Key and The Da Vinci Code. That's only apropos; Dan Brown put this sub-genre on the map with Code.
First, there's a hammy hubris to Dan Brown's writing that turns some readers off. There are no knowing winks. No sardonic nudges. Nothing to indicate Brown is rolling his eyes along with readers. Thankfully, that's all missing in The Shroud Key. Zandri knows what this is: a slice of alternative history served on a plate of gun battles, car chases, wise cracks, booby traps and explosions, with a cold beer to wash it all down.
Second, the hunt for the bones of Jesus is a compelling mystery anyway. The theory goes that Jesus actually survived crucifiction by swapping in someone else to die on the cross. Finding the mortal remains of Jesus would prove the Resurrection, the singular event at the heart of Christianity, never happened. Zandri wraps the mystery of The Shroud Key around this theory. But he doesn't overwhelm the reader with minutae. He pokes at the theory just enough to compel readers to Google images of the Shroud of Turin as they work through The Shroud Key.
Third, Zandri did his research. Against the advice of the U.S. State Department, he traveled to Egpyt while the Muslim Brotherhood was in power. The experience clearly shows through in the writing. While Zandri gives the reader plenty of thrills and spills to hold attention into the next chapter, he also inserts details that give The Shroud Key a real sense of place. Egypt, both past and present, are on full display, as is Zandri's journalistic tone.
So it should be obvious where the character of Chase Baker originated. Baker is Zandri. Both commute between New York and Italy. Both write best-selling thrillers. Both spent time exploring Egypt. And both wear bush jackets in the field.
I know that because Zandri wrote an article about staying safe overseas for the magazine I work for full-time, Living Ready. He's since contributed to Living Ready in many other ways. I mention it here to drive home the point that Zandri's skills as a journalist benefit The Shroud Key. It would've been easy for a plot hinging on a complicated religious history theory set against the complexities of post-revolutionary Egypt to cannibalize readers' attention spans. But as any good journalist knows, the solution is to boil complex issues into simple, digestible pieces.
That's why The Shroud Key works. At its core, it's a treatise on the destabilizing effects that political chaos in Egypt is bringing to its priceless antiquities. But on its surface, it's an entertaining read with all the bells and whistles readers expect from a thriller.
Dan Brown should take note. This is how to do it right.
|Posted on September 14, 2013 at 10:10 AM||comments (0)|
Shelf like works against a lot of thrillers of international intrigue attached to current events. There are some holdovers from the era of Cold War thrillers, for example, that survived the fall of the USSR, but only because they made it into the required reading category.
Which is why it's a gamble that Ian Graham decided to cover so wide a range of current events for his debut collection of short stories, Patriots & Tyrants. Fortunately for Graham, it paid off.
It did so not because each of the stories in this collection are necessarily classics (it leads with the strongest pieces first), but because of Graham's writing itself. His prose is lucid and well-researched. I imagine Graham opening each morning with an hours long digestion and dissection of the news.
It's telling that I published Graham myself following the Boston Marathon bombings at the magazine I work full-time for, Living Ready. He wrote up a timely analysis of Chechen history in the days after the attack. As the online editor for that article, I was impressed by his level of knowlege. Clearly, Graham is someone who invests time researching a subject before ever writing fiction about it.
That's what makes Patriots & Tyrants impressive and a pleasure to read. Graham covers a lot of ground with capable hands. It would be expected that Veil of Civility, the follow-up to this piece, doubles down on what worked. Keep a close eye on Graham. This is a writer who, like my fellow Minnesotan the late Vince Flynn, is going to get called into the White House one day.
|Posted on September 9, 2013 at 7:00 AM||comments (1)|
Before it was published by Pulp Metal Fiction in July, I had the honor to give renowned indie noir writer (the only title I can think of that truly suits him) Paul Brazill's The Gumshoe an advanced read. He was looking for feedback, and I was more than happy to offer my two cents.
Yes, this is me bragging a bit. A lot of people, including me, carry plenty of respect for Brazill. But that's not the point of this post.
The point is that it's a great read for many reasons. If you're a ways down the noir rabbit hole and want to char your reading list with something noir-ier than noir, then this is the burnt chicken leg to gnaw on.
The Gumshoe centers on, appropriately enough, a burned out PI named Peter Orb wandering from case to case around Seatown, England. Brazill, as many know, is a UK ex-pat living in Poland, so the descriptions are right on the money (or so it seems, I've never been there).
Some of the cases are funny, some are depressing, but none are interconnected. That's OK, though. This is a novella, and as I wrote in this post a bit back, the structure shouldn't follow the traditional novel. Brazill isn't making any mistakes by showing Orb as he is without some grand nut to crack.
That was reflected in an e-mail Brazill sent to me about writing The Gumshoe.
"I decided not to write a detective story and write a story about a detective," he wrote.
That's exactly what The Gumshoe is, and it's worth $2.99 to find out why Brazill is such a mammoth in the burnt crust of crime fiction.
|Posted on July 7, 2013 at 10:50 PM||comments (1)|
It's been a dozen or so years since Vincent Zandri first introduced Jack "Keeper" Marconi to the crime fiction world in As Catch Can, later retitled The Innocent. That's quite a wait for the third and latest in the series, The Guilty, released in July 2013. But it's been well worth it.
This time around, former prison warden and private investigator Jack Marconi is hired to investigate what might be a case of attempted murder. A woman engaged to a spoiled playboy winds up in the hospital with a suspicious head wound. Here's the twist. The playboy is into some crazy sex kinks that may point to how the woman became injured. Complicating matters is that the playboy's father is involved with some high-buck business deals in the area.
Zandri is in fine form throughout the novel. Those familiar with his writing will recognize his signature tight pacing, cheeky humor, plots based on true events and damned characters charred from one too many hot glimpses of hell. Once again, his prose is accessible to the casual crime fiction reader, yet still plenty satisfying to those hardcore fans of the genre. It's a great read. I soaked in that sucker in less than 24 hours.
But it's hard to review the third Marconi novel without putting The Guilty into context of Zandri's other projects. Since Godchild, the second in the Marconi series, Zandri produced a series of novels featuring private detective Dick Moonlight. Moonlight is crass and a bit of a womanizer, part of what makes him a bastard of a character - albeit one who can hold a reader's attention.
All that time writing Moonlight must've rubbed off on Zandri's revisitation of the Marconi character in The Guilty. The stoic and depressed one-foot-in-the-grave Marconi of the first two novels now resembles more of the brash, chauvenistic Moonlight.
From a writing process standpoint, this makes some sense. Zandri, as with any writer, isn't the same person at the keyboard as a dozen years ago.
From the reader's view, this Marconi might feel unfamiliar. Fans of the first two novels might wonder how Marconi got his proverbial groove back. Whether readers chalk it up to Marconi progressing in his closure following the death of his wife or just a retooling of the series, it's not a bad thing. It's just noticeable.
Another thing readers will notice is the Fifty Shades of Grey references. Fifty serves as inspiration to fulfill the kinky fetishes of the playboy character, serving as the template for his sex dungeon. It's my hunch this is part compelling plot point and part marketing juice to sell the novel (hey, I work in publishing, this is how I think).
But readers shouldn't be put off by the Fifty references in The Guilty. This isn't a rip-off, and Fifty is only mentioned briefly.
No, this is a series that can stand on its own. And with a fresh, episodic approach to the Marconi crime novels, I have a suspicion this isn't the private detective's last jaunt. Hop on board The Guilty or start at the beginning with The Innocent and Godchild. You'll quickly find out why nobody's e-reader has only one Zandri novel on it.
Click here to get The Guilty for the Kindle from Amazon.
|Posted on February 11, 2013 at 7:00 AM||comments (0)|
When Good Men Do Nothing, UK crime writer Paul Grzegorzek's latest novel, opens with the blind date from hell, the secretive MI6, a pile of murders, a booby-trapped boat, government manipulation of the news and enough technical crime scene jargon to satisfy the most hardcore CSI fan.
And that's just in the first 100 pages. The rest of the novel fleshes out a terrorist conspiracy brought to light after an assassin goes on a killing spree.
As I noted in my review of Grzegorzek's debut, The Follow, the plot is framed by the author's experiences in UK law enforcement. They pad the story in this novel, too, lending an air of realism that can't be faked.
However, as anyone in law enforcement would tell you, that type of job consists of crushing boredom punctuated by brief bouts of terror. Fortunately, Grzegorzek wears his writer hat for most of When Good Men Do Nothing. The chapters are short, the plot moves quickly, the action is constant and the mystery grows another leg whenever things look certain.
Outside of the terse plot, Grzegorzek continues the gruff cadence he introduced through Constable Gareth Bell in The Follow. Grzegorzek gives us Detective Sergeant Rob Steele this time around, although he's hardly different from Bell. There's the gallows humor, the rough treatment of low lifes, the air of invincibility and other similarities.
It had me wondering why Grzegorzek didn't just turn Bell into a recurring character. When Good Men Do Nothing could easily have been a prequel or sequel to The Follow, or at least been branded as part of a series within Grzegorzek's universe.
That's the writer in me thinking here. The reader enjoyed Grzegorzek's sense of dark humor, such as this passage from the beginning of chapter 18.
"Justin Evans was a cross between a garden gnome and something you'd wipe off your shoe before you got in the car."
I cracked a grin at that one and several others. It's part of the reason I enjoyed When Good Men Do Nothing.
You will, too. Click here to get it for the Kindle for $2.99.
|Posted on December 6, 2012 at 8:00 AM||comments (0)|
Ladies and gentlemen, this - THIS - is old school noir. Written by one of the new school's foremost masters of the style, Heath Lowrance.
Lowrance gives us protagonist Crowe this time around (although, in this novel, they're all antagonists in some way). He's just out of prison and looking for work. His old enemies are more than willing to give it to him.
After a mission to intercept a prisoner goes wrong, Crowe finds a trail leading to a cult called The Church of Christ the Fisher. It's not your average cult, even by the crazy standards such organizations have set for themselves.
Revenge is the theme that opens City of Heretics, but it quickly morphs into one about religion. The cynical tone of Lowrance's prose matches the desperation of the novel's lost souls searching for redemption or a purpose. The injections of this theme never feel preachy, and the supernatural elements are just enough to keep you guessing. Especially with that infamous Ghost Cat.
If you want some no-BS, tough guy reading, this is the novel that will deliver. Lowrance has crafted a tight story that never drags. The action is swift, brutal and ubiquitous.
|Posted on December 5, 2012 at 9:30 AM||comments (0)|
This is the fourth and final part of an e-book mystery serial. Read my review of the controversial first part here.
This final piece of the puzzle has Morna and Gordon wrapping up the mystery behind a suspicious package (aka The Wrong Delivery). I thought I had this series figured out, but the ending surprised me in a good way. That the twist came totally out of left field speaks highly of McDroll's jaunt into serialized fiction. That's what a good series should do. Ramp up the mystery at the end of each installment. Then hit 'em with something unexpected at the conclusion.
I recommend getting all four parts of The Wrong Delivery and reading them back-to-back. These are fun reads, more on the cozy side, and they include plenty of dark humor.
Click here to get The Wrong Delivery, Part Four: Running Out of Time from Amazon.
|Posted on July 30, 2012 at 8:05 AM||comments (0)|
I always like when a reviewer "gets" my crime thriller novel, Cleansing Eden: The Celebrity Murders. Not that readers have a hard time understanding the plot, but there are elements underneath that require some digging. And when a reviewer nails them, it makes me smile.
Click here for the latest Cleansing Eden review. Good way to start a Monday.
|Posted on July 10, 2012 at 11:15 PM||comments (0)|
Actually, let's not take the bus to a strip club. Instead, let's click here to check out a nice review of Maynard Soloman Takes the Bus to a Strip Club over at Detectives Beyond Borders. I especially enjoyed the discussion in the comments area.
This respected crime fiction review blog won a Spinetingler Magazine award for its work. If you're an indie crime writer, it's a big deal to get reviewed here.
And if you're not an indie crime writer, suggest an e-book to your favorite stripper.