Friday 30 June 2023


It took me a few chapters to get into Five Decembers and I'm not sure why, but from the moment it first hooked me until the end, I was gripped. What an absolute gem of a book. 

Joe McGrady is the police detective who takes on a case involving a young couple who have been butchered in a shack in Hawaii. And that's pretty much all I want to tell you in order to make sure I don't spoil anything for when it's your turn. 

McGrady's journey is told in a real hard-boiled noir detective style that's woven through a tapestry that has genuine scope. He's surrounded by a cast of characters who are brilliantly formed and situations that are utterly compelling. There's romance, war, history and culture to appreciate in a tale that's constantly driving forward. Every loose end is bound tightly into the whole as ghosts are exorcised and shadows illuminated. The detail is perfect and the world of the nineteen forties is so well described that it feels like you're actually there.       

There's a brutal hardness to aspects of the tale. There's also a poetic softness underneath. Imagine a Rottweiler that likes to have his tummy tickled. 

A couple of things occurred to me when I finished the read. 

The first thing I thought of once I was able to settle down was From Here To Eternity (I love  From Here To Eternity). Five Decembers has that epic feel to it. 

And if it were to be made into a movie, the perfect lead would be a resurrected Bogart on his very best form. 

400 pages of total engagement, tension and pleasure. The perfect summer read, no matter what your taste in fiction. 

Utterly brilliant. Add it to your must read pile. Also buy the paperback rather than the e-book version (it's that kind of book). 

Thursday 8 June 2023

One Man's Opinion: SHOTGUN by ED McBAIN

Carella and Kling take the lead on this one. A married couple are found in their apartment, heads and faces half removed by the shotgun of the title with no eye-witnesses to the crime. Kling doesn't really have the stomach for it and nor does the milkman who called it in. 

There's nothing particularly spectacular about the plot, even when the attention is diverted by the murder of a nice lady in the neighbourhood and the resolution of an old storyline. 

We get some insight into Kling's relationship with Cindy which makes her all the more alluring, though  Kling doesn't seem to be on the same page because he gets distracted for a while by a beautiful young woman who is a tenuous witness. 

As usual, there are the usual vignettes to appreciate as new characters are interviewed or investigated. McBain does this so wonderfully well, entire paintings created with a few simple brushstrokes. They flow together like streams feeding a river and keep the story ticking along at exactly the right pace. 

I'm not sure it's entirely relevant, but for the last few books in the series I've had a sense of how things would play out before the ending. Whether this is because I'm more tuned in or Mr McBain has skilfully laid out just the right amount of breadcrumbs in the trail to allow me to get there, I have no idea. 

Another terrific distraction from the more mundane things of life. Just what I wanted.