Friday, November 30, 2012

Butch Fatale, Dyke Dick - Double D Double Cross Butch Fatale, Dyke Dick - Double D Double Cross

Butch Fatale, Dyke Dick - Double D Double Cross Butch Fatale, Dyke Dick - Double D Double Cross by Christa Faust
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A woman hires Butch Fatale to find her missing girlfriend. When the girl turns up dead of an apparent drug overdose, Butch finds herself ensnared in a web of sex, blackmail, sex, drugs, sex, and murder...

Earlier in the year, I plunked down some of my cash for Christa Faust's Kickstarter campaign. This is one of the things I received in return.

Butch Fatale, Dyke Dick, is Christa Faust's love-letter to the cheesy detective pulps of the fifties and sixties, only with a lot more lesbian sex. She's like a female Mike Hammer, only with better writing and a hotter secretary.

The tale had so many twists and turns I had no idea where it was going, just like the stories Faust was paying homage to. Butch went from the frying pan to the fire so many times she probably had burn marks on her ass by the end of the story. A simple investigation into a missing girl wound up much more complicated than it originally appeared.

Faust's writing is as it always is; punchy and humorous while still conveying the necessary seriousness of the situation. Still, there is a scene depicting a naked lesbian detective trying to outrun her pursuers on a skateboard so it isn't all serious.

While it wasn't as dark as the other Faust books I've read, Hoodtown, Choke Hold, or Money Shot, it was still a very entertaining read. I'm anxious to read the next one once it's available.

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hit Me

Hit MeHit Me by Lawrence Block
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When his finances get into trouble, Keller finds himself back in business with Dot and dispatching targets in the only way he knows how.

In the interest of full disclosure, I received this ARC from Lawrence Block in exchange for reviewing it. Hell, when you're favorite living crime writer gives you an ARC, you drop what you're doing it and read it.

First off, I loved the way Hit and Run ended and thought maybe bringing Keller back was a mistake. However, the way Block did it, with Keller's business flipping houses tanking, made perfect sense, and Keller's new family dynamic added some extra twists. Block's writing is as it has been for the duration of the Keller series; breezy but still powerful. He even made me care about stamp collecting for a couple hours.

In this outing, Keller starts a business, brokers a deal on an amazing stamp collection, goes on a cruise, and kills some people. I phrase it like that because, for me, the Keller books are more about what Keller does when he isn't out on a job. His relationships with his wife Jule, his daughter Jenny, and the ever-present Dot, as well as his wrestling with ethical and philosophical issues, keep the stories fresh and show the man behind the murders.

The jobs are interesting too. Keller has to take out a man's wife before he divorces her, return to New York to take out an abbot, kill a young bride's much older husband, and tries to find out who made an attempt on a targets life before he had the chance, all the while busying himself with family and philately.

That's about all I have to say. If you're looking for a view behind the curtain of the murder for hire business, give Lawrence Block's Keller series a try. Hit Me may be the best one yet.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Last Good Kiss

The Last Good KissThe Last Good Kiss by James Crumley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

C.W. Sughrue is hired to rack down an author before he drinks himself to death. Complications ensue and Sughrue takes on a second case while he's waiting for the writer to be healthy enough to travel, finding a girl that's been missing for ten years. Where will Sughrue's cases take him?

Ever read a book and wonder what rock you must have been hiding beneath to never hear of it sooner? The Last Good Kiss is one of those books. Numerous reviewers have described it as a cross between Raymond Chandler and Hunter S. Thompson and I saw why not very many pages from the beginning.

The story seemed simple until someone took a bullet in the ass and Sughrue had some time on his hands. The search for Betty Sue Flowers takes Sughrue and his companion on a drunken odyssey through the most depraved parts of the west.

I have to admit that a lot of the twists caught me by surprise, especially one near the end. By far, my favorite part of the book was the relationship between Sughrue and Trahearne. Sughrue himself is quite a character, part PI, part bartender, all drunk. He's like Phillip Marlowe with twenty consecutive years of bad luck behind him. Crumely's prose reminded me of Chandler's in places but bleaker.

That's about all I have to say. It's a crime Crumley isn't more well-known. Four easy stars.

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

The First Rule

The First Rule (Joe Pike, #2)The First Rule by Robert Crais
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A retired mercenary Joe Pike used to work with is murdered along with his family, seemingly by a home invasion crew. Joe Pike springs into action. When signs start pointing to an arms deal involving Serbian organized crime, Pike starts wondering if his old friend was mixed up in something he shouldn't have been...

The First Rule was another exciting outing featuring Joe Pike and Elvis Cole with Pike taking center stage and kicking ass. I can't say too much about the plot without blowing too much. Pike gets caught between the ATF, and two rival Serbian crime lords. Chaos ensues. Pike comes out on top.

The second Joe Pike solo adventure was better than the first, The Watchman. While I still never felt Pike was in jeopardy, the story had more twists and showed that Joe Pike has a softer side. Pike taking care of a baby was surprisingly touching.

That's about all I have to say, I guess. It was a fun read and a nice way to spend a couple hours. Three easy stars.

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Chasing Darkness

Chasing Darkness (Elvis Cole, #11)Chasing Darkness by Robert Crais
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A man Elvis Cole cleared for murder years ago turns up dead with a photo album of seven female murder victims in his possession. Did Cole help clear a killer? Why is the task force still working if the case has been closed? And what is the glory-seeking police chief trying to hide? That's what Elvis Cole and Joe Pike are trying to find out...

I have to admit, I had my doubts about this one at first. I should have known Crais had pulled the wool over my eyes yet again when I thought I knew who the killer was about halfway through.

Chasing Darkness continues the saga of Elvis Cole. It's not as weighty as the last three books, more of a run of the mill case. Cole, with help from friends Joe Pike, John Chen, Carol Starkey, and some of the other regulars, works to figure out if he helped clear a serial killer, leaving him free to kill again.

Like I mentioned before, Crais had me off in the wrong direction for a good portion of the book. Still, when the cops are like Marx and Munson, it's easy to assume the worst.

For an Elvis Cole book, Chasing Darkness is surprisingly light on gun play and for the first time in a while, neither Cole nor Pike end up in the hospital. Hell, it doesn't even have the usual Cole and Pike ending of a shoot out with the bad guys. Still, it was quite an engaging read. There were some tense moments when Elvis did some illegal things during the course of the investigation.

Any complaints? Only that I wish Elvis would cut Lucy Chenier out of his life and set up house with either Carol Starkey or Joe Pike. Four stars.

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Devil All the Time

The Devil All the TimeThe Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Willard Russell prays over a prayer log for his cancer-ridden wife with his son, Arvin. A spider-eating preacher is convinced he can bring back the dead. A husband and wife pick up hitchhikers, photograph them, and kill them. How will all of their paths intersect?

Knockemstiff was one of my favorite books this year and I was anxious for Donald Ray Pollock to try his hand at a novel. Now I'm anxious for him to write a couple hundred more.

The Devil All the Time dips into the same well as Knockemstiff at first. I had to admit I wasn't sure about things in the early-goings, not until I saw where things are going. The stories don't appear related at all except for the backwoods Ohio setting. Not until Arvin and Leonora wound up in the same place.

The overlying theme of The Devil All The Time seems to be that you can't run forever, something Williard, Roy, Teagardin, and most of the other characters learn the hard way by the story's end. I loved trying to figure out where the various plot threads would knot and tangle together. Besides obviously reminding me of Knockemstiff, it also reminded me of No Country for Old Men at times.

By far my favorite pair of characters to follow was Carl and Sandy. Since I've been watching a lot of Dexter lately, I latched on to the duo pretty quickly. Lee Bodecker was a close second, since he was the closest thing to a common character appearing in all the various threads.

By the time the end rolled around, I wasn't sure who would live, right up until the last page. The Devil All the Time was a brutal thrill ride through the sad lives of a fistful of characters. Five stars, no complaints.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012


Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After surviving two Hunger Games, Katniss finds herself as the face of a revolution. Can Katniss lead the rebels to victory against President Snow and the Capitol?

The Hunger Games trilogy comes to a conclusion in this volume, a conclusion that tends to polarize people. Without giving too much away, the ending was actually one of the parts of the book I liked the best.

The story coming out of the previous volume, Catching Fire, sees Katniss uniting the districts against the Capitol, primarily through propaganda films. Peeta, on the other hand, is used in counter-broadcasts by the Capitol in an attempt to undermine the rebellion. Issues are raised that leads Katniss to believe that Coin, the president of District 13, may not have her best interests at heart.

Sounds good, right? It was, for the most part. I liked that Collins didn't do all the expected things. Characters died left and right. Katniss assassinates someone. Katniss' choice in lovers is finally made for her.

My main gripe with Mockingjay is that Katniss has been on a downhill slide since the Hunger Games, going from being a capable fighter to someone that has meltdowns pretty consistently throughout. Even at the end, I still didn't care about either of her love interests. Cinna or Finnick would have made a better companion.

So that's it for me and the Hunger Games. Overall, I'd give the trilogy a high three. I think Collins may have been better served to condense it into two books, though. Or even leave the Hunger Games as a standalone.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Catching Fire

Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, #2)Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In the wake of The Hunger Games, insurrection brews, an insurrection Katniss has unknowingly become the symbol of. President Snow expresses his displeasure with Katniss in the only way he knows how. Can Katniss and the other victors of the Hunger Games survive the Quarter Quell?

Here we are, the middle book of the Hunger Games trilogy. In a lot of ways, it feels like a transitional book. In some others, it feels like a rehash of the first one.

I liked seeing how the Hunger Games changed the lives of Katniss, Peeta, and the rest of District 12. Katniss' relationships with Gale and Peeta both moved along. Seeing the other districts as the Victory Tour moved along was a nice bit of world building. I also liked that Haymitch's past was explored a bit. President Snow and his controlling of Katniss made my skin crawl. I can't wait until someone settles his hash in the third book.

Of the new characters introduced, I have to say Finnick is by far my favorite. The carnage level was ramped up significantly in the death match part of the story. The combatants were a lot more capable and the threats were much much worse. The nerve gas in particular is going to stick with me.

The growing unrest really makes this feel like a transitional book. It almost feels like the Empire Strikes Back at times. Instead of the whole "Ben, why didn't you tell me?" at the end, it's Haymitch.

Still, I didn't like it as much as I did the first book. It was a little been there, done that, especially in the end. Also, Katniss seems to have taken a step back. She seemed very strong in the first book but not so much in this one. Also, I know the whole Katniss/Peeta/Gale love triangle is supposed to be a big part of the story but Gale doesn't get developed enough for me to really care about him and Peeta's feelings for Katniss are a little on the unbelievable side given Katniss barely gives him the time of day most of the time.

Three stars, possibly 3.5. On to Mockingjay! Time to boat this bass.

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Monday, November 12, 2012

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In a dystopian future, Katniss Everdeen takes her younger sister's place as District 12's representative in the Hunger Games, a 24 person free-for-all broadcast on live TV. Will she walk out of the Games alive?

So, I've been avoiding the Hunger Games for years. It has several strikes against it:
1. It's a young adult book
2. The enormous amount of hype
3. The fact that it appears on the surface to be a combination of two Stephen King books, The Long Walk and The Running Man

The other night, I was talking about the Robert Crais book I just finished and my lovely girlfriend asked when I was going to start reading the Hunger Games. Monday, I said. She was making country fried steak that night. What else could I do? Lucky for me, the country fried steak and the Hunger Games were both great.

Suzanne Collins crafted quite a tale in the Hunger Games. From the start, I was impressed with her lead characters. Katniss's personality reflected her background nicely. She wasn't cutesy or even particularly charismatic when the story started and was definitely rough around the edges. Peeta's questionable motivations kept the story moving for much of the book.

The Hunger Games themselves reminded me of the Stephen King books I mentioned earlier and also Lord of the Flies. I never had the safety net feeling that I had while reading other YA fare like Harry Potter. The way the story was told in the present tense gave it an urgent feel that kept me turning pages until my bedtime had come and gone.

Any gripes? Just the usual curmudgeonly ones about it being the first in the series with a lot of dangling threads left to be resolved in the two subsequent books. It was an easy four star read.

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Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Watchman

The Watchman (Joe Pike, #1)The Watchman by Robert Crais
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

While Elvis Cole is on the mend, an associate of Joe Pike's calls in a favor. Joe is tasked with protecting a young heiress from the people trying to kill her. Things go south when there is a leak at the Department of Justice and Pike finds that the only people he can trust are Elvis Cole and himself...

Joe Pike takes the lead in this Robert Crais offering and gets saddled protecting a Paris Hilton type heiress named Larkin Barkley. As with L.A. Requiem, Joe Pike's past is explored as the case unfolds. I loved the way the relationship between Pike and the spoiled heiress develops as they find they have things in common.

It's a nice change of pace to have Elvis Cole in the supporting role and have Pike take the lead. It's an exciting tale with a much higher body count than most Crais books so far. That should be expected, though, when the enemies are linked to South American drug cartels.

With Pike as the central character, Crais developed the normally silent Pike into a multidimensional character and kept The Watchman from devolving into a mindless action-fest. I don't really have much more to say on that front. It's Pike being Pike with Elvis Cole in tow.

While The Watchman was an enjoyable read and a nice change of pace, I'll be glad when Elvis Cole takes center stage again. 3.5 stars.

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Forgotten Man

The Forgotten Man (Elvis Cole, #10)The Forgotten Man by Robert Crais
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An old man is gunned down in an alley and his last words were that he was looking for his son, Elvis Cole. Was the old man really the father Elvis never knew? That's what Elvis is trying to find out. But will he be able to live with what he finds?

Much like The Last Detective, Robert Crais digs into Elvis Cole's past with the Forgotten Man. In the wake of the events of The Last Detective, the possible appearance of Elvis' unknown father drags him out of his depression and sets him into motion. It makes for a great story. Crais had me flip-flopping on whether or not Faustina was Cole's father for a good portion of the book.

Like The Last Detective before it, The Forgotten Man deviates from the old formula of Cole and Pike stirring things up until the shootout at the end and spends more time exploring Cole's past. Cole has come a long way from being a Spenser ripoff.

The friendship of Cole and Pike has been fleshed out quite a bit more in the last couple books and I had to fight back some man tears at the end. While they aren't as in love as Spenser and Hawk are, I find their relationship much more believable than Cole and Lucy's. Speaking of Lucy, she's beginning to annoy me as much as Susan Silverman. Not to spoil anything but I wish she'd stop vagina-blocking Starkey and let her and Cole get together.

That's about all I can say without giving away too much. Cole's a clever guy but not unbelievably so and I recommend his adventures, especially the later ones, to all crime and mystery fans.

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Blood Riders

Blood RidersBlood Riders by Michael P. Spradlin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Captain Jonas Hollister watched blood-drinkers slaughter his men and wound up with a ten year sentence to Leavenworth. When a senator's son witnesses similar killings, detective Allan Pinkerton springs Hollister and sends him after the creatures that slaughtered his men. But can Hollister trust the men the senator has sent to watch his back? And what about the mysterious woman following him?

Blood Riders was a fun read, no two ways about it. You've got stalwart natural leader Jonas Hollister, his mysterious multi-racial all-knowing kung fu sergeant Chee and his dog Dog, the lovely and mysterious Shaniah, and tons and tons of vampires in the old west. Historical personages, both real and fictitious, such as Oliver Winchester, Allan Pinkerton, and Abraham Van Helsing are also characters. Actually, the vampires are actually Archaics, a species similar to but not the same as vampires. The line isn't clearly drawn, something Hollister himself remarks upon.

The story is pretty straightforward. Hollister gets out of Leavenworth in exchange for doing some vampire hunting. Carnage and witty one-liners ensue. Hollister and Chee kill vampires by the wagonload using a variety of steampunk gadgets. It reminded me of the first volume of American Vampire a bit.

I liked that Spradlin used the Archaics instead of vampires so he was free to deviate from established vampire fiction as much as he pleased. He also hinted at werewolves and witches, giving further credence to my idea that this would be the first book in the series, something confirmed at the end.

While it was a lot of fun, I couldn't justify giving it higher than a three. For one thing, I found all the supposed twists fairly obvious, from Shaniah's hidden background to what transpired between her and Hollister. For another, I at no point felt like Hollister and Chee were in any real danger of failing in their mission despite being surrounded on several occasions.

That being said, I still enjoyed it and I'll give the next book in the series a shot. Three stars, mostly for the fun factor.

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Saturday, November 3, 2012

Gravity: Big-City Super Hero

Gravity: Big-City Super HeroGravity: Big-City Super Hero by Sean McKeever
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Greg Willis comes to NYC from Wisconsin for two reasons: to go to NYU and o make it as a big city superhero, Gravity. Can Gravity stop the Black Death and finish the semester with his life and his girlfriend intact?

Gravity is a throwback to the superheroes of the silver age but with modern age art. Much like Spider-Man, Gravity struggles to keep his personal life together and be taken seriously as a superhero at the same time. In the process, he teams with the Greenwich Guardian and goes up against Rhino and the man who will be his arch-nemesis, the Black Death.

Really, that's all I have to say. It's not overly complex and seems to be written with a younger audience in mind than most comics these days. Gravity is an interesting character but I've already read this story when it was early issues of Spider-Man. Still, it's a fun book and I'd like to see more Gravity in the future.

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The Last Detective

The Last Detective (Elvis Cole, #9)The Last Detective by Robert Crais
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When his girlfriend's son is kidnapped right out from under his nose, Elvis Cole goes into overdrive to find him. Ben's kidnappers seem to be tied to Elvis's past as a Ranger in Vietnam, forcing Elvis to relive his early days. Can Elvis and Joe find Ben before the kidnappers kill him?

Crais keeps the momentum going from L.A. Requiem and once again, Elvis and Joe wind up in the soup. Instead of Pike, The Last Detective focuses on Elvis' past, from never knowing his father to his "free spirited" mother to his days in Vietnam. His relationship with Lucy is further strained and he runs on fumes trying to get Ben back. I felt like LA Requiem was Joe Pike's defining book and The Last Detective does much the same for Elvis.

Crais did a good job with the supporting cast, as per usual. Lucy Chenier's husband Richard has been a douche since he was introduced and he takes it to new heights in The Last Detective. Carol Starkey, the main character of Demolition Angel, is in charge of the investigation, making me wish I'd read that book before this one. However, the villains of the piece were among the worst yet. When Joe Pike admits to being scared, you know things are pretty bad.

Speaking of Joe Pike, his aura of invincibility is gone after LA Requiem and he knows it. I'll be interested in seeing him recover in the next couple books.

That's about all I have to say. Elvis and Joe are outgunned but still manage to come through. Changes rock the supporting cast that will affect the series for books to come. I've got no complaints.

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

L.A. Requiem

L.A. Requiem (Elvis Cole, #8)L.A. Requiem by Robert Crais
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A woman Joe Pike used to be involved with is murdered and her father hires Elvis Cole and Joe Pike the find the killer. Things take a dark turn when it turns out the woman was murdered by a serial killer and that serial killer appears to be... Joe Pike?

As I've mentioned in pretty much ever review I've done for an Elvis Cole book so far, I thought he was a Spenser ripoff for the first book or two. This one leaves my initial impression in the dust like a drag racer trying to set a world land speed record on the salt flats. For me, this was the pinnacle of the series so far.

It started off ordinary enough but soon tore the doors off. The mysterious Joe Pike's past was explored, revealing much without killing all the mystery. Elvis's relationship with Lucy is strained near the breaking point so soon after she turned her life upside down to be with Elvis in LA. Elvis is forced to make some difficult decisions on his friend's behalf. Great stuff.

The new supporting characters were interesting. Krantz, with his ties to Joe Pike's past, made him one of the most interesting, even though he's a huge tool. I also really dug Samantha Dolan.

Crais had me going a couple times on this one. I had no idea who the killer was until he was revealed and even though I knew logically the killer wasn't Pike, I questioned myself a few times. For the first time in the series, I found Elvis and Lucy's relationship believable, maybe because it was coming apart. Joe and Elvis's relationship is still far more believable, as was Elvis' despair in the last thirty or so pages of the book, wondering if Pike was alive and if Lucy was still his.

That's about all I can say without revealing too much. L.A. Requiem is the best book yet in the Elvis Cole series. If you like the series up to this point, you'll love this one.

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