Friday 18 March 2022

One Man's Opinion: HOLE by GERRY BROWN (illustrated by EDUARDO RISSO)

Here's a turn up for the books, me reading a one-man-fighting-machine-against-the-odds thriller, something I've tended to avoid for quite a few years now. Without understanding quite why, it's a genre I avoid as it doesn't really engage me beyond the page-turning energy of trying to find out what's going to happen next (the edge of that energy slightly dulled by the knowledge that the protagonist is indestructible and will be able to use their black-ops skills to kick ass and summarise all defensive and attacking positions in the blink of an eye). In a nutshell, I read a Jack Reacher book once and really enjoyed it, but didn't (and won't) go back for more. 

The blurb for Hole reads:

It was the perfect shakedown.

Moundsville State Prison was rotten to the core. The guards were almost as crooked as the cons. Gangs ruled the jail, and Davie Ingram ruled the gangs.

The way it worked was Davie and his boys would isolate an inmate with no one to back him up. Hurt him, hurt him bad, on camera. Then send the video to the inmate's loved ones.

They wouldn't ask for much. Five, maybe ten thousand.

The first time.

Because if you didn't want your son, your nephew, your brother to play punching bag for the meanest motherfuckers in Moundsville, you had to pay again and again and again.

But this time Davie's crew picked the wrong man to shake down.

He's a man who won't take kindly to seeing a video of his brother being stomped by half a dozen vicious goons. A man who's a professional in the art of making people pay. Not with money, but with blood.

A man named...HOLE.

Hole has an interesting concept at its core. The idea that a prison gang can extort money by torturing an inmate is pretty cool. It works really well as a hook and, because Vint Hole is the man outside trying to save his brother, there's menacing energy in spades. 

Vint Hole is actually very engaging. He keeps himself to himself and anyone with any sense is going to him allow him to do that; the Warlords might have been wise to do their research first so they could have found this out. While trying to save his incarcerated brother, he needs to take on a mean and well-organised crew. The journey will take him back to his roots as well as into the middle of a nightmare.

It's a fast-paced read, is written well and has a couple of unexpected and inventive twists to add to the pleasure. Illustrations by Eduardo Risso bring an extra and pleasing dimension to the whole thing.

As with Reacher, I really enjoyed this but won't be dipping in for more. That said, if Reacher and his many offshoots/imitations are what you dig, you should get your spade out now as I suspect Hole is a treat you'll devour.   

Saturday 5 March 2022

One Man's Opinion: AX by ED McBAIN

'Uptown, in a slum basement, one cop missed death by four inches and another cop missed staying alive by four inches.'

When there's a reading slump here in the Bird house, I can usually rely on Ed McBain and the fighting 87th to shake me out of it. Ax certainly helped in that respect, watering barren landscapes to produce a brief flowering of enthusiasm for books. I'm hoping the plants will last all year, but am equally ready for the bloom to disappear as if it's a momentary oasis in a desert. 

As the title suggests, there's an axe (I'm adding the e out of habit, not to be obtuse) in this one. And there's a corpse that has been savaged by said axe. It's that of a janitor found in a dingy basement and it's not a pretty sight.

The discovery of the body leads Carella through a series of encounters with mothers and their children. There's the wood-chopping Sam and Mrs Whitson, the agoraphobic son of the janitor who stays at home to look after the vulnerable new widow, the curious boy and the nosey neighbour Mrs Moscowitz and the wonderful Mrs Teddy Carella and their own kids. This series of meeting provides the background to the story as interesting vignettes, but the investigation doesn't really kick in until these foundations have been laid. 

In the course of this novel we meet a great cast: ex cons, an informer, a bunch of veterans from the Spanish-American war, a psychiatrist and a bent cop. Each set piece is well handled, all the more so because Carella and Hawes take the lead, and allows us to circle the case without nailing anything down.

As the number of pages diminishes and a solution seems as far away as ever, there's a bolt from the blue. My initial feeling was one of being cheated- all the legwork and the stories and the answer falls into their lap (something that happens from time-to-time with the 87th). Only it doesn't and the false conclusion is yet another satisfying twist in the tale. 

Thanks go out to Ed McBain for bringing another dose of sanity into a crazy world. Well worth the read.   

Wednesday 2 March 2022




"Accomplished writing from one of the best authors in the UK." M.W. Craven, Sunday Times Bestselling author of the CWA Gold Dagger Washington Poe series

Three bodies, one suspect. That suspect is you…

When the unidentified corpse of an apparent suicide victim is found hanging above a complex pattern of forty photographs of children, Detective Inspector Jonah Pennance of the Met’s specialist Sapphire Unit is brought in to investigate.

A post-mortem reveals the suicide was murder, and Pennance realises he knows the man. But as the body count rises, all the signs point to a care home in Kent – a place that Pennance is all too familiar with.

The problem is the only person connecting the victims is Pennance – and he has a solid motive for wanting them dead… Can Pennance prove his innocence?

Perfect for fans of Ian RankinStuart MacBride, and Peter James Blood Sentence is the first book in the explosive series featuring Detective Inspector Jonah Pennance.

What Others Say

"A compelling murder mystery with a multilayered and engaging new hero. A great read."
Mason Cross, author of the Carter Blake thriller series

"Keith Nixon is a sparkling crime fiction talent."
Howard Linskey, author of the Detective Ian Bradshaw crime series

"Takes the police procedural elements and gives them new life."
Luca Veste, author of the Murphy and Rossi crime series

"One hell of a writer."

Ken Bruen, author of the Jack Taylor novels

Available here