Friday, October 20, 2017

The Dead Girl (Greg Owen) by Evan Ronan

This one has the same kind of feeling one of my favorite series, the Rush McKenzie series has. The main character isn't really a PI and although he is quite skilled at what he does has a very Everyman kind of feel.
Greg Owen is the owner of several small businesses and has PI license he doesn't really use. He's asked by an old friend to prove a young man went to jail innocent of killing his highschool sweetheart.  He ends up uncovering quite a number of old secrets while they try to warn him off the investigations. Besides that he's also got to deal with the fact his ex-wife and his daughter might be moving to a different city.
Greg is a guy that you might know and want to have a beer with. He's an ex-Marine but no macho tough guy. He's an okay investigator but no Sherlock Holmes. It's those facts and the easy, breezy style of the writing and not difficult plot and number of characters involved that make this one such a hoot to read.
I'll be sure to contact the author soon and tell him he's got a winner here. Author Evan Ronan is probably best known by his paranormal mystery series (featuring Eddie McCloskey), but I hope he'll be writing this series for a long time to come as well.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Background Check on Fox Hunter (Charlie Fox) by Zoe Sharp

Zoë Sharp has been earning a living from words for almost 30 years. She left school at the age of 12 and has become an autodidact with a love of obscure words. When not writing or international pet-sitting, she renovates houses, crews yachts, and drives rather faster than she ought to. Find out more about her and Charlie Fox on www.ZoeSharp.com. With a new Charlie Fox novel coming out I wanted to know the details...

Q: Tell us what the novel is about.

A: The jacket copy really sums it up:

Charlie Fox will never forget the men who put a brutal end to her military career, but she vowed a long time ago she would not go looking for them.
Now she doesn’t have a choice.
Her boss and former lover, Sean Meyer, is missing in Iraq where one of those men was working as a private security contractor. When the man’s butchered body is discovered, Charlie fears that Sean may be pursuing a twisted vendetta on her behalf.
Sean’s partner in their exclusive New York close-protection agency needs this dealt with—fast and quiet—before everything they’ve worked for is in ruins. He sends Charlie to the Middle East with very specific instructions:
Find Sean Meyer and stop him. By whatever means necessary.
At one time Charlie thought she knew Sean better than she knew herself, but it seems he’s turned into a violent stranger. As the trail grows more bloody, Charlie realises that unless she can get to Sean first, the hunter may soon become the hunted.

For my own part, it’s a book about revenge, betrayal, and justice.

Q: How long did it take you to write the novel?

A: Far too long! I’ve had a bit of an enforced break from writing, and it was undeniably hard to get back into the mindset again. So, this probably took me well over a year to write, when normally I would complete a book in about 4-5 months.

Q: Did it take a lot of research?

A: Oh yes. Although I did travel to the Middle East a couple of years ago, obviously there were places I was not inclined to go. Nevertheless, I worked hard to get the right atmosphere and feel without over-describing any particular location. I worked very hard, also, on the cultural aspects of the book, and was enormously pleased, when I read out a section at Noir At The Bar in Toronto, just before Bouchercon, to have a guy from Saudi Arabia come up to me afterwards, shake my hand, and tell me I had it nailed. I also had a former CSI from the UK tell me she had seen numerous similar cases during her career. That kind of thing makes it all worthwhile.

Q: What inspired you to write this story?

A: I learned that the smuggling of ancient artifacts from the Middle East was a major source of terrorist funding, and that little or no provision had been made to prevent looting in Iraq—often perpetrated by the Iraqi people themselves—of important archaeological sites after the US-led invasion. I wanted to write about the abuses against women in all countries, and Charlie’s search for answers concerning her past. The book opens with fears that Sean has gone off the rails and may be on a mission of bloody revenge on Charlie’s behalf against one of the men who raped her when she was in the army. I wanted to put her in the position where she might possibly be called upon to protect one of those men. There were a lot of interesting psychological and emotional elements to give depth to what was also a fast-paced thriller.

Q: Which scenes did you enjoy writing the most?

A: I always like openings, because the start of the book is never the start of the story—it is where you choose to introduce the reader into the story. And I bear in mind that if the reader has looked at the jacket copy, they will already know something of the backstory to the plot, so why waste time telling them something they already know? For this reason, Charlie is already in Iraq as the book opens, in the morgue, looking at the corpse of one of her former comrades and trying not to be too grateful that he’s dead, because at the same time she’s worried that her former lover and boss, Sean, might be responsible. Setting that scene was one of my favourites.

There are others, too—the ambush of the military contractors’ vehicle in Basra, the second-hand story of the Iraqi woman in the clinic in Kuwait City, the stand-off in the remote farmyard on Saddleworth Moor and the conversation that follows with one of the other men who raped Charlie, her meetings with ageing Balkan gangster Gregor Venko in his Bulgarian stronghold, her clashes with Sean throughout the novel, and the denouement. In fact, there had to be something I enjoyed about every scene, or why include it?

Q: Who is your favorite among the characters in the novel?

A: That again is a hard question. There are a few returning characters in this novel, as well as the usual ones like Charlie, her boss Parker Armstrong, and of course Sean. I’ve revisited one guy from the second book, and another couple from book three, as well as Madeleine, who took over Sean’s old close-protection agency in the UK and has popped up from time to time along the series. Perhaps more than previously, Charlie is surrounded by strong women. I really liked the military contractor Charlie meets, Luisa Dawson, who developed very clearly on the page. I liked Najida, the Iraqi woman who only appeared briefly but still sticks in my mind. And Aubrey Hamilton, the CIA agent fighting a losing battle—Aubrey’s name, incidentally, came from a charity auction where she bid to be included in the novel. Finally, I grew really fond of Moe, the kid Charlie and Dawson hire in Kuwait City to be their fixer and guide into Iraq.


Friday, October 13, 2017

Invisible Dead (Dave Wakeland) by Sam Wiebe

For anyone thinking the USA is the only place where real good hardboiled private eyes are from... This one proves you wrong.
Dave Wakeland is an ex-cop and former boxer who runs  PI business in Vancouver with his partner Jeff Chen. Chen is the one with the business sense, Wakeland the one with a soft spot for lost causes and hard cases. Hired to look for a missing prostitute he gets involved with an old classmate who seems to have fallen from grace and clashes with a motorcycle gang.
Wakeland is partly the standard tough guy with some great oneliners, good with his fists and has a troubled past. What makes him more original is his involvement with a serious, bigger PI firm.
But hey, I don't read PI novels because I want the protagonist to be totally unique. I like the archetype, that's why I read them.
The story is dark, the social commentary never overblown but written with just the right amount of anger to make it work.
Definitely a new series I will be following.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

What The Dead Leave Behind (Rush McKenzie) by David Housewright

As fans know Rush McKenzie isn't a PI because of the money. In fact, he isn't an official licensed one. He's an ex-cop now millionaire who sometimes does favors for friends which end up with him solving crimes. I'm a fan of this series and gladly review every book.
As always we slowly follow how he further deepens his relationship with his girlfriend and her daughter. In fact, the daughter is the reason he starts an investigation in an unsolved murder in this book. He ends up investigating corporate espionage and fraud and a different cold case.
After a few books that had Rush go undercover and a bit less traditional sleuthing it's nice to see him really investigate a murder cause again. I must say I had a bit of trouble keeping all the female characters apart that pop up in this one.  The way all kinds of secrets pop up seemed a bit overdone at times.
Mostly though I enjoyed the book, happy to ride along with one of my favorite PI's again. Never too dark but too hardboiled for a cozy by far a nice, enjoyable read.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Skull Meat: A Paignton Noir Mystery (Joe Rey) by Tom Leins

This is a pretty dark novelette. Joe Rey is a PI in Paignton who really is more of a thug / fixer. We follow him kicking the crap out of people and wielding a pigknife. There is no honest or nice person in the book and that includes Joe. The prose is very fast and to the point, which I absolutely loved. The violence plays out in your mind very vividly without spending a huge amount of description, not an easy feat.
I must admit I sometimes got lost in the plot, the chapters almost a series of short stories.
All in all I liked the writing style but wasn't 100% sure I liked the plot. Eager to read more though.