Friday, 30 September 2016


‘He tried to remember his insurance deductible, but that felt too regular and he crushed the thought like an insect.’

Jess Forsyth is the kind of character I love to read about. There was no silver spoon in his mouth when he was born and life’s been against him from the start. He’s made a lot of choices along the way and not all of them have been wise. Even so, he wants to do the decent thing. If only he had a stronger will and a little more in the way of luck.

An encounter with gun peddler Mikey at some point before our main story begins, landed Jess in prison. He was lucky though, because the woman (Kersey Sims) who put him in prison senses something about him and has become a kind of a mother/grandmother figure. She’s given him a second chance and he’s happily living life on the straight and narrow as a pool cleaner to some of California’s wealthy folk when we meet.

All might go well, only another encounter with Mikey sets things on a new course.

Mikey invites Jess to come along on a job. The aim is to shake down a drug dealer, Griffin, at his mansion. As they carry out their crime, a young woman is killed and there’s a lot of mopping up to be done and this is where things really start to spiral beyond anyone’s control.

Griffin wants his money back. Mikey isn’t sure about what’s going on. Jesse has fallen for the dead girl’s friend Shawny. Shawny knows there’s more money in the house and she wants it. Jess wants Shawny and the money. And there’s a loose cannon called Rimbaud who, like the poet he’s named after, just loves to explore life and find new experiences.

What I like about this book is the way the gears change so smoothly. You have a really good balance between the build up of tension and action scenes that always serves the plot well. More importantly, the whole series of crime capers has the secure foundation of strong characters. We get to know Jess through his interactions with the criminals mentioned earlier, but also through more tender and complex situations with one of his pool owners, with Shawny and with Kersey Sims. We also get to ride with him through his dreams and watch them as they spill out into his reality.

Three Kinds Of Fool (US) offers plenty of nourishment for the reader. You can get your kicks from the adrenaline-fuelled deeds or you can savour the thought-provoking elements and let them twist up your thinking for a while. There’s no real room in here for good or bad and black and white have swirled together to make a new kind of grey, which is just the way I like it.     

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

One Man's Opinion: THE FEVER by MEGAN ABBOTT

“You spend a long time waiting for life to start – her past year or two filled with all these firsts, everything new and terrifying and significant – and then it does start and you realise that it isn’t what you’d expected, or asked for.”

While reading The Fever (US) by Megan Abbott, my world felt very brittle. The foundations of life seemed egg-shell thin as the book eroded them layer by layer. It’s not an easy thing to explain - you’ll have to read it to fully understand - but being the father of a teenage daughter with two other children fast approaching their adolescent years means that this story hit close to home. It made me all too aware of shifts I can already sense taking place underneath the surface, many of them I’d rather ignore.

In this novel, a group of friends is devastated when one of them has a serious fit in a very public place. Word travels fast via the super-highway of social media and panic sets in around her school. The effects are magnified when another of the group has a fit as this opens speculation about what might be going on. There are fears that a vaccine might be to blame or that there’s a sexually transmitted disease doing the rounds. Others worry that it might be related to the old lake where swimming is now forbidden and around which legends swirl like mist. The public health board get involved, but their covert investigation only serves to add fuel to the fire.    

Deenie is left in a vulnerable position. The dynamics of her group have already been evolving in ways she can’t control and she is painfully aware that something has gone from her life forever. Her encounters with sex have raised questions and doubts as much as they have introduced new pleasures to life. The tension behind these developments built well and, even though I couldn’t fully grasp the hysteria portrayed within the school community, I was thrilled and drawn in as the story unfolded.

This one is told from the points of view of Deenie, her brother and father, which allows us to see the situation from a range of perspectives. Particularly powerful for me was the father’s angle. He’s spent his life devoted to his children and at this critical stage it seems like he’s lost them. The past has gone and so has their need for him to be at the centre of their worlds. He’s battered by the conflicting needs to protect them and to leave them to work things out for themselves. He wants so much to do the right thing when the very concept barely exists any more. 

There’s also a plenty of power in the portrayal of the young adults as the rug is pulled from under them and they try to make sense of a world that is constantly moving.

The Fever is an unsettling work. Abbott dissects the character with the scalpel-sharp precision of an anatomist. It’s amazing that she can portray so effectively the mix of excitement and pain involved in growing up from a young woman’s perspective, but more impressive that she can so naturally inhabit the personas of a teenage male and middle-aged man. It’s a beautifully written story that has a satisfying twist to help tie everything up and I’d like to recommend this one to the house.  


Saturday, 24 September 2016

99c Mystery and Thriller Promotion

Another Mystery and Thriller promotion, this time for 99c deals. This one features my own Mr Suit (a personal favourite of mine) and a wide spread of other titles. Well worth checking out folks. The offers are good for 24th and 25th September. Happy hunting. 

Wednesday, 21 September 2016


‘There was a time when The Lawyer would have said no man deserved to die in the dirt. That time had long past.’

The Lawyer was once a good man who did his work with the law on his side. Following on from the murder of his family he’s still a good man, only now he’s prepared to use different tools to find justice.

He’s on the trail of Big Jim Kimbrough and winds up in a town called Sundown. While there he is horrified by an act of barbarity carried out by local bully Buchanan who drags a local black man into town to be hung because he’s stolen a slice of pie. The Lawyer can’t tolerate this and steps in to try and alter the planned course of events. Unfortunately, Buchanan has the backing of twisted minds and those who rely on him for employment. Intervention means going up against practically the whole town.

With only one ally, The Lawyer draws his line in the sand and becomes the target of the deranged mob that doesn’t appreciate his set of values.

The Lawyer: Six Guns At Sundown (US) is a quick and enthralling read. The usual Western props are present in abundance and the action is delivered with the tension and pace that you can confidently expect in a story by Eric Beetner. Themes of the underdog against the hoard and of the just against the brutes may be commonplace, but the element of racism that forms a key platform for the tale brings an extra dimension that is compelling and offers a reminder that though things have changed, there’s still a way to go.  

Thursday, 1 September 2016


The Things I Love Will Kill Me Yet (US) attacks the senses with unpredictable shifts of theme and tone and has the power to stun, move and create uncertainty. The sum total of the collection is even more powerful than its considerable component parts and it is, therefore, a shining example of an anthology. Best of all, the stories continue to live on after the words have been left behind; it’s this stirring of my imagination that I enjoyed most of all. Terrific and inspiring fiction.

All due respect to the publisher, All Due Respect - yet another belter from their team.