Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Jeremiah Healy (1948-2014)

Like many other writers I was shocked to learn Jeremiah Healy passed away recently. I loved his work, having picked up the first John Francis Cuddy books because I had read most Spenser books and was looking for something similar. Of course, besides the Boston PI thing there's little they really had in common. The Cuddy books had their own style and Cuddy wasn't the superman Spenser was.
So sad that now both Robert B. Parker and Jeremiah Healy have passed away.
I will always be grateful for the blurb he provided for my Noah Milano books:
 "J. Vandersteen takes us back to the glory days of pulp fiction. And I mean the genre, NOT the movie. His Noah Milano character rings completely true as a tough, lone-wolf private."

That goes to show you what a wonderful man he was and how friendly he was to his fellow writers, always ready to help them along.


He will be missed by readers, writer and family.

The Black Bullet (Sean O'Brien) by Tom Lowe

Tom Lowe's Sean O'Brien goes Jack Reacher style in this one. It shows how versatile a character O'Brien is, working in more standard PI mysteries as well as more thriller oriented stories as this one. That's because he's got a background as a cop AND a Special Forces guy, so he's got the skills to investigate a murder AND fight terrorists.
During a fishing trip O'Brien discovers a downed submarine and material for a dirty bomb. When it becomes national news he's contacted by the granddaughter of a man who got killed sixty-seven years ago. It turns out the submarine and the murder are connected. O'Brien has to fight Russian mobsters and terrorists for the uranium and uncover the mystery behind the 67 year old murder, dealing with all kinds of agencies.
There's a lot of action in this book. I usually have a hard time with big budget action flicks style action in books because they're hard to read, but Tom pulls it of.
Looking forward to more of O'Brien, in many ways the ultimate series protagonist. He's got everything a hardboiled hero needs.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Kula (Kai Cooke, Surfing Detective) by Chip Hughes

Kai Cooke is a pretty laidback PI in the Hawaiian islands who's also known as the Surfing Detective because he loves spending time on the board. When he's hired by a wealthy guy to track down his dog he's intrigued that his client's wife is also missing.
During his investigation he enlists the aid of an old friend, who is an actual pet detective, but a hell of a lot tougher than Ace Ventura. Together they search for the dog and uncover the secrets of Cooke's client and encounter how cruel man can be to animal.
On the private side Kai is dating a married woman and he's not sure how he feels about that, maybe his old friend the pet detective is a better match for him?
I thought the start was a bit slow, but in the second half of the novel the pace picks up pretty good. Kai is a relaxed and nice guy in the Elvis Cole / Rush McKenzie mold that I like so much. I was also intrigued by his relationship with a married woman, something the nicer PI's usually aren't involved with.
I also noted that there was some violence in the book but it was never described in bone-crunching detail which makes this book lean a bit towards softboiled, and will make it a great read for cozy lovers as well as the hardboiled fan.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Lost Ones (Quinn Colson) by Ace Atkins

With every book in this series Ace Atkins makes me a bit less sad he isn't writing the Nick Travers series anymore...
Ex-Ranger and sheriff Quinn Colson polices Tibbehah County and sets out to track down a child-traficking woman through her daughter. There's also a gun smuggling ring to round up and he's aided by FBI Agent Dinah Brand for that one. An attractive young woman (she really came to live for me through the great writing), Quinn ends up sleeping with her, to the dismay of his deputy Lillie (one of the strongest female characters I've read the last couple of years). Involved in the gunrunning is Quinn's old pal, ex-Army man Donnie Varner which shows you the road Quinn might have taken if the Army didn't push him in the right direction.
There's also some flashbacks to some of the darker moments of Quinn's youth, some personal trouble with his sister and his family as well.
All in all, there's a lot going on in this book. Enough for the actual investigating to take a backseat to the goings-on of the characters involved in the story which gives it a little literary band. Don't think it ever gets pretentious though, compare it more to James Lee Burke's stuff. There's enough action and hardboiled stuff for every crime reader.
I loved the whole Southern atmosphere of the book, really feeling I was transported over there. And hey, you got to love Quinn who says he needs nothing besides coffee, whiskey and books. I can relate to that!

On the Street Where You Die (Stanley Bentworth) by Al Stevens

Stanley Bentworth calls himself a softboiled detective and he kind of has the name to go along with it. He always intends to stop smoking, drinking or sleeping with a woman who uses him for rebound sex. I was expecting a character along the likes of Stanley Hastings (by Parnell Hall) or even Lenny Parker (my own PI who appears in The Shamus Sampler II), but in all honesty I thought Bentworth was pretty hardboiled. He's not a bumbling amateur but an ex-cop fired because of excessive violence. In this book he smacks someone around with a shotgun and he can act pretty tough. Still, he can use the help of Sanford, a hitman who is a cool sidekick.
Anyway, in this book he is hired to find out who is blackmailing a guy who's in the Witness Protection Program and has to take care of a stalker who's also with Military Intelligence. Along for the ride is a hacker kid who wants to become a PI as well. I'm afraid I don't like hacker characters that much in PI stories, they remind me too much of the sci-fi kind of hackers in TV shows like Criminal Minds or Arrow, being used as deus ex-machina a bit too much. I do have to admit he's a funny character, though.
I really loved the witty voice of Bentworth and the pacing was good, the book not too long and the mystery satisfying. So, although it's not what I expected it to be, I liked it and hope to read more in this series.