Wednesday 26 June 2024



I've read and loved the Hap and Leonard books and branched out from there to read Cold In July, a crime novel with a pretty cool twist and a fair pace to it. 

Richard Dane is woken in the middle of the night to disturb a burglar. The burglar takes a shot at Dane and Dane fires back. Only one of the bullets hits the target, and the burglar drops to the ground. 

The police clear Dane from any respobsibility and it looks like life might return to normal once the sofa is changed and the wall's been painted, only the victim's father has just got out of prison and he's not the sort to take the murder of his son lightly. 

The twist, or the first of them, occurs fairly early on and I wouldn't want to continue with any plot description to preserve the surprise for you. What I can say is that a Private Investigator is introduced and that in order to resolve things there are going to be further revelations, scenes of violent action and deepending tensions.

I enjoyed this one well enough, but with a few reservations. There were niggles for me about Dane's actions early on and some of his decisions seemed unlikely. And there's the first-person narrative that doesn't quite bring the depths of the narrator all the way to the surface in the way such a perspective can take. 

Overall, a solid and entertaining novel that offers plenty of thrills and spills, but doesn't pack the emotional punch that I get when following Hap and Leonard.   

Wednesday 19 June 2024


Having just completed the excellent Deadly Honeymoon by Lawrence Block, the fact that I followed up with So Long As You Both Shall Live by Ed McBain suggests an element of design. Truth be told, the McBain was simply the next in the series, so having decided to dip back into the 87th Precinct, back-to-back honeymoon stories became inevitable.

Working your way through a series, no matter how slowly, has its benefits. Character histories, memories of previous plots and the sense of place all allow for smooth running and familiarity. In this case, it also helped glue me to the page until the climax was reached. I'll try and explain. 

Bert Kling marries a model. The party after the ceremony is attended by police and those connected to the modeling industry. Also in attendance is a photographer who is quite besoted by Kling's new bride. Bert and Augusta remove themselves from the attention and retire to their hotel. There's a brief underlining of their love for each other before Bert takes a shower. When he comes out he finds Augusta has gone. He goes through the logical steps of finding her, but when he finds evidence of the use of chloroform, it's clear that Augusta has been taken against her will. 

You can imagine what follows. The 87th will do anything to help Kling out. They round up their snitches, upturn every available stone and look in every dark corner, all to no avail.

So here's the thing. In many a book, it might be clear what's about to happen. The most likely outcome is that the cops will find their suspect and free the wife after a suitable amount of detection and tension. With Kling and McBain, we know that this is in no way a given. Kling has already lost one fiancee, murdered in as a casual bystander in a bookstore (at least I think it was a bookstore- any necessary correction gratefully received) and we know that bad things can happen to anyone as the series progresses. That in itself creates a level of tension that a standalone by another author might not be able to manage in quite such a simple way.  

It's also useful to undersand what Fat Ollie Weeks stands for. Having managed to get precisely nowhere with the investigation, Carella can't refuse Weeks's offer of help on this one. The fact that he's a racist bigot who uses a strong arm more he should is marginally trumped by the fact that he is capable of thorough detective work and loves the legwork more than most. As a reader, it's easy to hate the guy, but it's also possible to be rooting for him 100% given that Kling's world and Augusta's life depend upon it. 

Suffice to say that the conclusion is gripping and the race to the end a real sprint. I'll keep my feelings about what happened to myself and recommend that you read it to find out. 

So Long As You Both Shall Live is a treat. Along with Deadly Honeymoon, it's a book that is an excellent example of what can be done in a short space of time when the quality of the writing is so high. I'd hold these up as excellent examples for those learning to write crime fiction and those who already do. Top notch. 

Thursday 13 June 2024


"We have three weeks. I think we can find them and kill them in three weeks 

"Three weeks is plenty of time," she said. 

It's not the ideal start to Dave and Jill's honeymoon. At their lodge, they witness the murder of a man they've only just met. When the killers are done, they notice that Jill's an attractive woman Within minutes she can no longer claim to be saving herself for the wedding night. 

There must be many ways to respond to such a situation. Dave and Jill, without discussing the issue, arrive at the same conclusion- they must find their attackers and kill them in the time they have left for their vacation.

Problem they have is that they have no information on the murder victim other than his name. What follows is the journey of them moving ever-closer to finding the identities of the men they seek. They rent a motel room in New York, seek information in newspapers and from the connections they locate. Slowly, but surely, they piece together the situation. Along the way, they become wrapped up with gangsters and fiends, finding courage and determination from their need for revenge and unleashing the brutal strength rooted in their anger. 

Deadly Honeymoon is an absolute cracker. A simple concept that's totally engaging from the off and lean as a cyclist on the Tour de France. It has the thrill of a detective story and the lush pleasures of a page turner. 

Wednesday 5 June 2024



'"How do you deal with having all that in your head?" Carla asked. 

Titus put on his sunglasses. 

"I try not do dream," he said as he walked into the house.'

One of the things that can separate a wonderful read from just a good one is the quality of the ingredients. In All The Sinners Bleed, Cosby has gathered only elements of the finest grade and then only those that are absolutely necessary. Not only that, he adds each at precisely the right time and at the perfect temperature to produce a work that is served to us as a feast.

Titus Crown is at the heart of everything. An ex-FBI agent and now the first black sherrif in an overtly racist county, he's got his work cut out for him from the start when a popular white teacher is killed by a young black shooter in the high school. The shooter is killed by two of Crown's cops and when the dust begins to settle, a rift tears through the community and the weight of racist history bears down on Crown as he goes about solving the case.

What makes the plot so rich and thick is Crown's determination to do the right thing in the eyes of the law regardless of anything else. In order to do so, he meets conflicting attitudes all the way. There are the white supremacists fervently defending their beliefs and the civil rights movement who are ready to meet fire with fire. We have a town buried deep in religious passions that Crown has come to despise. The big cheese in town wants a quick resolution to the murder and is ready to pull the rug from under Crown's feet. His own officers need investigating because of the shooting and there are rumours that one of his colleagues is on the take. He's torn between realtionships with two women, one who is good for stability and another that offers excitement and danger. His own past haunts him constantly and there's pressure put upon him to surrender his case to those who may have the resources to bring the case to conclusion. And the depraved killer that the Crown exposes taunts him with new bodies, obscene murders and menacing threats that become increasingly dark as the story progresses. In short, the whole world seems to be working against Crown even, at times,Crown himself. 

It's a brilliant story. Cosby zooms in on personal elements and back out into the broader aspects of detection with genuine ease whilst always maintaining focus, rounding chapters with cliffhangers and gut punches born of simple turns of phrase that always hit the spot. It really is one of those reads that you just don't want to put down.

Loved this, as did the International Thriller Writers who very recenlty awarded it the Best Hardcover Novel prize. Definitely well-deserved.