Saturday, June 29, 2019

Sins as Scarlet (Inspector Iwata) by Nicolas Obregon

Former Japanese inspector Kosuke Iwata spends most of his time working divorce cases after his move from Japan to LA. When he sets out to investigate the murder of his wife's transgender sister he gets involved in a dangerous case that takes him to Mexico where he has to confront the dark ways of the people smugglers there.
A good private eye is somewhat of an outsider and Iwata as a Japanese detective is one for sure.His backstory is quite engaging and dark. In fact, this backstory, the number of flashbacks and the way of words make this quite a literary crime novel. This has two effects: one is that this is a thoughtful, haunting read. The other is that sometimes the flashbacks and background cost some of the pacing of the story.
The research that went in this one is very clear and you are taken to the world of LA or Mexico very effectively.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Free Fiction: On Bad Behavior (a Noah Milano serial) part 1

It's been a while since you last read about him, but here's a new serial featuring Noah Milano, security specialist and son of a mobster.


In the old days I could afford an office. Those days were long gone. That’s why I was as happy as a 14-year old who found his dad’s stash of Playboys when I got a new client. Well, that analogy is pretty outdated with the internet now, I guess. Shit, who knew I’d ever feel old?

The lady sitting at my table at Starbucks was pretty good looking. Even for LA-standards. She was tall, with long dark hair, piercing blue eyes and a body that would make a model envious. She was drinking one of those fancy-ass mocha-cookie-dough-tutti-frutti coffees. I just had a regular black coffee.

“Doesn’t that coffee hurt your teeth? I can almost hear the dentist rubbing their hands in glee.” I said.

She smiled. “You don’t like these kind of coffees?”

“I wouldn’t dare to call it coffee.”

She laughed. “Maybe you’re right. And you’re joking to make me feel more at ease, aren’t you?”

“Me? No, I’m just a smartass all the time.” I tried to look as innocent as I could.

“Right. Well, thanks.”

“So, Miranda. What can I do for you?”

“It’s my husband. He’ll be out of jail tomorrow. And that worries me. You see, I testified against him to get him in there. He beat up my brother and abused me for years. I’m afraid he’s going to hurt me when he gets out.”

I couldn’t help but grit my teeth. “Shit. That sounds bad. So you need some protection?”

“Yes. I heard you’re the least expensive bodyguard in Los Angeles. I hope I can pay you.”

“I think I can charge my lowest rate for a case like yours. Say one dollar a day. Plus expenses. Which, if you make me coffee at your place will be a whole lot less.”

“A dollar a day?” She gave me an inquiring look, as if she wasn’t sure I was kidding her.

“I’ve got some good karma to earn,” I told her. “A case like yours might help. I’ll be there with you the day he gets out. After that I’ll see if I can do anything to keep him off your back. There’s a limit on how long I can pay my bills on karma alone, so I can’t be guarding your charming body forever.”

She blushed a little at that. I couldn’t believe a woman like that still knew how to blush. “How do you think you can reach that?”

“I can be very persuasive. If I sold girl scout cookies I’d be rolling in dough. And not the dough the cookies are made of. I meant money, you know?”

She laughed. I liked the way her eyes seemed to sparkle when she did. Miranda Shaw was definitely a very attractive woman.

“All right. But Max is a pretty savage guy. He used to be in the Marines. It took four cops to take him in.”

“Don’t worry about that. I can take pretty good care of myself.”

“Okay, thank you so much,” Miranda said.

“I’ll go get my stuff and will meet you at your place this evening, okay?”

“Yes. That would be good. Thanks.”

I shook her hand and left the Starbucks, thinking this would be a walk in the park. Just protecting a nice lady from some abusive asshole. Shit, would that turn out to be wrong.


Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Miami Midnight (Pete Fernandez) by Alex Segura

I remember when Pete Fernandez was just a nosy reporter. During the course of this series he's turned into a hardnosed private eye who can disarms his enemies with a few quick moves like he's Elvis Cole or something. Considering the huge amount of misery and death he's been facing that doesn't come as too big a surprise. Just as it's almost natural that this one ends the series. There's only so far you can take a character through the wringer. And there's only so much backstory you can expand on.
Pete is hired by an aging mobster to track down the killer of his son and his missing daughter in law. That's just a catalyst though for a complex story that digs deep into the death of Pete's mother, has his old enemy Silent Death return and uncovers mysteries that go back to almost every other book in this series.
Also, Pete's complicated relationships with Kathy, the Gina to his Patrick (if you don't get the Dennis Lehane reference, buy Gone Baby Gone or watch the movie) moves in surprising ways. Those scenes are written with such a moving voice you understand Alex cares about his characters.
An engaging and complex read. I think this one is going to nab some awards.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

First Kill The Lawyers (Holland Taylor) by David Housewright

David Housewright manages the feat to write two good PI series at the same time. This one, the Holland Taylor series (versus the Rush McKenzie series) is the most hardboiled of the two probably. In one particular chaptere Taylor proves he doesn't need any psycho sidekicks.
Taylor and his partner Freddie are hired by a group of attorneys who are being blackmailed because their files have been hacked. When they investigate and try to track down the hacker they get involved with a rich, but strange family.
The story has a slightly slow start with many different characters to keep up with, but when the stakes get higher the story becomes quite thrilling. There's also some great secondary regular characters in this series, especially the female ones.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Red City Blues (C.T. Ferguson) by Tom Fowler

Regular readers of my blog will know how much I love the novella. It's the best way to tell a really fast-paced PI story with all the fit trimmed off. It's a joy that Tom writes a lot of these.
C.T. Ferguson, hacker and PI is hired to find out who killed the son of Erma Johnson. He was found dead, wearing gang colors, but she's sure he wasn't in any gang. Aided by his police friend Ferguson investigates and uncovers several other killings.
Ferguson is a neat character because he's paid by his rich parents after solving a case, a concept that I like. His voice is nice to read, with some Spenser-like wit.
What did irk me a bit, as it did with other Ferguson stories, is how close the cops sometimes are willing to work with him. Also, the explanation Ferguson expected to do a lot detective work behind the computer but ends up in fights a lot was given a few times too many.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Atlanta Deathwatch (Jim Hardman) by Ralph Dennis

Too be honest this book wasn't what I was hoping for.
Ex-cop Jim Hardman, partnered with ex-NFL player Hump Evans is hired by the black mafia to investigate the murder of his white lover. There's a nice helping of action along the way and the prose is crisp enough. Jim and Hump are a good duo with some good banter, you can see the way they inspired guys like Hap & Leonard for sure.
However... At times the story seemed a bit too drawn out. The pacing sometimes slowed down for no good reason. I guess for an old mass market paperback I was expecting a bit more pulp and speed.
Still, good enough to pick up the rest of the series. Just not as good as I thought.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Free Fiction: Man's Ruin Part Five (A Lenny Parker serial) by Jochem Vandersteen

Lenny Parker, PI / roadie / metalhead is back in a new serial, every new part starting with a metal video. He’s my slightly more humorous version of the PI. He doesn’t exactly know what he’s doing and sure as hell isn’t the martial arts master my Noah Milano is. In the first episode of this new story he was hired to track down the girl who robbed an old buddy of his lottery ticket. See previous parts here.


“Okay, have a seat and tell me about your trouble,” Lenny said. He was prepared to hear some kind of bullshit sob story. But still, he felt obliged to listen to it. There was no harm in listening, right?

Janey sat down on the couch and started to cry. Her make-up ran down her face, reminding Lenny of the corpse paint his favorite black metal acts wore.

He sat down next to her. He couldn’t help but be moved. Her teams seemed genuine. And he’d always been a big soft-hearted sap. He patted her back. “Just go ahead and tell me.”

“It’s terrible. So terrible… You see, for years I’ve been a junkie. I just recently got clean. But five months ago, when I was still using… I kind of sold my baby…”

“You what?” Lenny wondered if all that heavy music had damaged his ears.

“I sold my baby. You see, I didn’t have the money to pay for my drugs anymore. And my dealer told me he would take my baby as collateral until I could pay him back for the drugs.”

“You’re shitting me.”

“I told you it was terrible. I’m so fucking ashamed of myself…”

“Relax. I’ve seen what drugs can do to people while I was on tour. I know it makes you do crazy things.”

“So, now I’m clean and I want my baby back. But my dealer wants me to pay a lot of interest before I get my baby back.”

“So he hung on to your baby like a fucking watch at a pawnshop?”

“I guess you could put it like that. But I must admit I’m afraid my baby isn’t alive anymore. Or that he just sold it to some rich folks who can’t have babies of their own.”

“I’m afraid that sounds somewhat likely. A drug dealer doesn’t exactly sound like the kind of person to spend the time taking care of a baby. Haven’t you seen any recent proof your baby is okay?”

She shook her head. “No, no I didn’t. But that’s why I’ve been stealing from guys I slept with. To get the money to pay to get my baby back.”

“I guess I understand that. How old is your baby?”

“Ryan is sixteen months old now.”

“We’ll get him back,” Lenny decided. “Did you already cash in the ticket?”

“Not yet. I figured it would be wiser to wait just a little while and not cash it in in San  Diego.”

“That’s better thinking then when you used your baby as collateral,” Lenny said.

“Fuck! I know I’m terrible! I hate myself for what I did!” Janey said and dug her nails into her cheeks, drawing blood.

Lenny grabbed her wrists, pulling her hands away from her face. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. I’m going to help you get Ryan back and then you give Keith back his ticket.”

With large eyes Janey looked at Lenny, like a dying man hearing he is going to live anyway. With the make-up all over her face and the blood on her cheeks she looked so terrible it made Lenny’s heart ache. “You think you can get my Ryan back? Really?”

“I think I have an idea how to do that, yeah. I’m just going to call some friends and see what I can do.”

“Thank you… I’m really not a bad person, I hope you can understand that.”

“I try not to judge,” Lenny said. “Tell me more about that dealer of yours.”

“His name is Anthony Roth. He’s one of the biggest coke dealers of San Diego. He’s got a bunch of three henchmen doing his dirty work.”

“Can you reach him?”

“Yeah, I have his number. For when I get the money together.”

“Good. I will call some friends. Then you call him, set up a meeting with him. Tell him you want to exchange the money for Ryan,” Lenny said.

“What do you have planned?”

“I’m not exactly sure yet, but I’m sure together with my friends I’ll come up with something. We’ll get you your kid back. Whatever it takes.” Lenny thought he almost sounded like a real hero. Too bad he wasn’t so sure about his success as he made her believe. Still, he felt he had to try.