Monday, December 28, 2020

Don't Shoot The Drummer (Lou Crasher) by Jonathan Brown

 Lou Crasher, the drummer/PI is back in action. When a gang of criminals robs houses that are ''tented off'' for fumigation he is hired by the mother of a security guard that was killed by the gang to track them down.

The criminals turn out to be an interesting bunch and we have some chapters from their P.O.V. Lou is always a cool character, the drumming angle is nice and he can be a pretty tough guy.

Unfortunately there is no mystery and the plot didn't really grab me as much as the first novel in this series. I will be reading the next one in the series to hang out with Lou again but hope the plot will be more interesting.

Monday, November 23, 2020

The Mechanic (John Tyler) by Tom Fowler


Having enjoyed Tom Fowler's C.T. Ferguson books for some time now I was excited to read the first full-length John Tyler novel. Somewhat of a departure from the PI novels that the Ferguson series consists of I did enjoy it. This is more of a straight action thriller kind of book in the Lee Child/Jack Reacher vein.

John Tyler is a single dad. He retired from the army some years ago. Recovering from PTSD, he now works as a mechanic. When his former commander, who has a big bone to pick with Tyler gets out of jail and threatens Tyler's loved ones he has to pick up arms once again.

While the plot is rather thin and John is perhaps a bit less original a character than C.T. Ferguson the pacing is enjoyably fast. What Fowler excels in, is describing really cool action scenes. He hands you just the correct amount of detail so you can see the action in your hand without slowing down too much.

And though the plot is a bit thin, it does set up the stage for the series quite nicely. I am interested in finding out how Tyler gets involved in a new adventure in the second book. I do hope the plot will be a bit more interesting.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Blood Sisters (Shea Stevens) by Dharma Kelleher

A woman is on the run from her powerful husband, asking former confidential informer Shea and her Athena Sisterhood Motorcycle Club for help. That causes quite some trouble, just like the rival biker gang that the Athena Sisterhood helped put in prison getting back on the streets. And then there's the matter of Shea's adopted child who is feeling ill.

What follows is a gritty, action-packed story with my favorite lesbian protagonist. I love how Shea is both tough and vulnerable. The feelings she has for a female cop are so well described. The love she feels for her stepdaughter are so genuine. Shea is such a kind and loving woman as well as a tough biker/warrior. The combination works. Not your standard PI character and infused with a huge dose of rock 'n' roll attitude her adventures are a delight to read.

I loved the first two entries in the series. This one is even better.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Free Fiction: The Albino Assassin (A Lenny Parker serial) by Jochem Vandersteen

 Lenny Parker, PI / roadie / metalhead is back in a new serial. 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.

For the other parts of this story click here.



Casey updated Lenny about her new love, Jenna while they were in his Dodge Ram. They were heading for Jenna’s place. Jenna, last name Collins, had a job at a local sex shop. Turns out Casey met her there, shopping for a strap-on. Lenny had stopped feeling shocked about Casey’s openness about her sex life. The conversation had turned to if Casey had someone to use it on and before you knew it they were at the back of the shop doing the nasty. Eat that, Penthouse Forum. They discovered they had more to offer each other than just pure lust, like the same crude sense of humor and a  fondness of riot grrl bands and medieval poetry.

“Did she ever mention something to you about not liking San Diego, or her work?” Lenny asked Casey.

“No. She loved her job. She just liked meeting all the freaks and embarrassing the housewives who shopped there. She wasn’t thinking about leaving. I know what you’re suggesting, Len. But she didn’t just leave on her own accord. There’s something wrong.”

“Okay, okay. But most often when an adult disappears she usually turns up after a few weeks, drunk, broke or in love with someone else.”

“This is not one of those causes, okay?”

“Sure.” Lenny pointed ahead. “This her place?”


“Great. Let me park and we’ll have a look over there.”

Lenny parked the Dodge next to a battered Volvo. Together with Casey he walked over to the apartment complex. It had three stories, white balconies and walls painted red to mask the fact the building was pretty old.

“You don’t have a key, right?” Lenny asked.

“If I had a key I would have gone over to have a look myself, don’t you think? No, I need your fancy PI lockpicking skills.”

“I’m actually not very good at that. I’m not Magnum, you know?”

“You can always put some of your weight against the door.”

“Hey! Stop picking on me about my weight!”

“Pick locks, not on Lennies,” Casey chuckled.

A young woman with pink shorts and a black tank top moved past them on rollerblades, over to the apartment’s main door. A blonde ponytail stuck out from her white cap.

“Quick, let’s move in behind her,” Lenny said.

Casey wiggled her eyebrows. “Not a punishment.” Lenny shook his head in despair. Casey was so much worse than even most men he knew.

Walking as fast as they could without looking suspicious they moved to the door. Just before the young woman could close it, Lenny put a foot against it.

The woman looked behind her, missing the sound of a closing door. “Oh, hi. Didn’t see you there.”

“No worries,” Lenny said. “Nice weather for some rollerblading, right?”

The woman smiled. “Absolutely. I haven’t seen you before here, are you new?”

Casey put an arm around Lenny and kissed his cheek. “Yeah, we just moved into our little love nest here.”

Lenny was caught a bit unaware by Casey’s act but had to admit it didn’t feel bad to get a kiss from his beautiful friend. “Yeah. We’ve got a friend living here as well. Jenna Collins, you know her?”

“Jenna? Good looking girl? Lots of tattoos?”

“That’s her,” Casey said.

“Yeah, I’ve run into her every now and then. She usually tries to get me in bed when she does. Some people have been complaining about the loud music she plays.”

“That sounds like her as well,” Casey agreed. Lenny wondered if it bothered her that her girlfriend tried to pick up women in the apartment building.

The young woman took off her rollerblades, quite a balancing act. Lenny was a gentlemen and offered her a hand as she did. “Haven’t seen her in days, though. Maybe she’s on holiday or something? You know about that?”

“No, haven’t heard about that,” Casey said.

“Well, I’m going to take a shower. Sweating my ass off. Nice to mee you folks,” the woman said. “I’m Tiffany.”

“Nice to meet you too,” Lenny agreed.

“For sure,” Casey said.

They watched Tiffany go up the stairs.

“And what a nice sweaty ass it is,” Casey said.

“I guess you have no reason to be mad at Jenna for trying to pick her up,” Lenny told his friend.

“She probably just wanted to arrange a trio.”

“Right, probably. Well, that was the first door. Now let’s head over to the second.”

The two metalheads went up the stairs to the third floor where Jenna’s apartment was.


Friday, August 28, 2020

The Desecration of All Saints (August McKenzie) by Alan Lee


When I started reading this one I wasn't sure I was going to like it. I'd already read the first in this series which I'd enjoyed but couldn't remember the "voice'' being so influenced by Crais and Parker. You know, the whole witty, self-depreciating one. As the story progresses the voice becomes more its own though.

What is left is a fairly solid detective story where PI Mackenzie August is hired to prove a clergyman is not the gay sex fiend he is being accused of being. During his investigation August has to switch sides and gets involved with a kidnap case. There is a nice deeper layer about the nature of evil and the position of religion and the church in modern day society.

Some things that made the read extra enjoyable were the talks August has with his adopted baby Kix and with his sidekick, US Marshal Manny. As an interesting subplot we have August's relationship with his big love Ronnie.

Billed as a standalone somewhat outside the series (taking place between the first two novels I understand) this is a nice pretty quick read. Alan Lee won me over to check out more in this series.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

The Wanted (Elvis Cole) by Robert Crais


Of course Elvis Cole and Joe Pike rule. They may be updated versions of Spenser and Hawk but I think they are fun characters/ This particular novel isn't the best one in the series though.

Elvis is hired by the mother of a teenage kid who seems to have some way too expensive stuff. It is sort of like my own 2013 story featuring Lenny Parker, but besides the concept it is a very different story. 

Anyway, the kid turns out to be in a new life of petty crime but has gotten his hands on something two thugs are after. Cole enlists the aid of his sidekick Joe Pike of course and sets out to find the kid (and his girlfriend) before the bad guys find them.

The bad guys are pretty interesting. They start out as basic everyday thugs but get a backstory which makes them less standard evil. 

There's some fun banter between Cole and a hacker kid. Besides that there is some emotional scenes concerning Cole's old love Lucy and her kid, Ben.

Crais knows how to write a fast-paced story and I like how he is economical in his prose. The story itself is a bit thin for the number of pages it is. I would have fit it in a novella. 

Friday, August 14, 2020

Free Fiction: The Albino Assassin (A Lenny Parker serial) by Jochem Vandersteen

 Lenny Parker, PI / roadie / metalhead is back in a new serial. 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.

For more Lenny Parker stories look here.




Lenny heard the bullet dig into one of the wooden crates in front of him. He’d taken cover behind a stack of those crates a few minutes ago. The warehouse was full of them. He knew they wouldn’t be much of a cover though and one of the bullets might dig through the wood and into his flesh. He didn’t really know what to do besides taking cover though. His cases usually didn’t often require carrying a gun, so he had nothing to shoot back with. The assassin taking shots at him was a professional. As tall as she was dangerous. So odds were he was going to die right there, in a warehouse in San Diego by a 9mm fired by a sexy albino assassin. He couldn’t believe how he’d ended up here….



Casey was the drummer in Lenny’s thrash/death band The Necromantic Poets. The day she asked for his help as a private investigator she wore her hair blue. It might be pink the next day and he wasn’t sure but thought it had been purple a week ago. They were having a drink in their favorite metal bar, The San Diego Batcave. He was on his second Corona, she was drinking vodka. There was some Lamb Of God coming from the speakers.

“I’m still sorry the original drummer left the band. Chris was awesome,” Casey said.

“I was never a big fan of their sound. Although I like what Morton does solo,” Lenny shared.

“Too soft for me,” Casey said. “Lenny, buddy… I didn’t just ask you over here for just a drink today. I kind of need your professional services.”

Lenny held up his Corona. “I already was suspicious you paid for my beer.”

“You calling me cheap?”

“I’m not calling you anything. Just showing my professional investigation skills.”

“Yeah, I’ll need those. I need you to find a missing person for me.”

“That’s part of my gig, sure.”

“I’ve been dating this really hot chick, Jenna, for a few weeks now. We were supposed to go to a Dollyrots show two days ago but she never showed up. Doesn’t answer my phone, doesn’t open the door…”

“I don’t want to bruise your fragile ego, but couldn’t it be possible she’s just not into you anymore?”

“Fuck you, Lenny. Only fucking thing fragile about me is my clit. I’ve never ever been dumped after I went down on a girl anyways. Chicks don’t leave me, I leave them. That’s just not an option, dude.”

Lenny shook his head. “Shit, I wish I had your confidence. I wouldn’t have to spend my night Netflixing and chilling with just my right hand then.”

“Aww, fer chrissake… I won’t be able to burn that image out of my head now.”

“Drink some more of that vodka, that might help. But what, you want to hire me to track her down?”


“That’s 400 a day plus expenses.”

Casey almost choked on her drink. “Four-what?”

“I’m a professional investigator, remember.”

“Fuck you once again, you fat slob! You’ve worked for Black Sabbath records, bottles of Blackened whiskey and Amazon discount codes. What are you charging me full price for?”

“I remember having to pay full price for that time I visited that Ravenscroft show where you were asked to fill in on drums for.”

“I wasn’t allowed to put anyone on the guest list, dude. I was just a hired gun. Come on, how many times have I helped you out with your cases for free? You owe me some.”

Lenny sighed. He had to admit she’d been helpful a couple of times. And although she could give him shit every now and then she was probably one of his best friends. “All right. Quit your whining. You just hired a private eye. It will cost you a buck a day.”

“Sixty cents.”

Lenny rolled his eyes. “Sheesh, fine… And another Corona. I think they’re going to play some Vader next.”


Monday, August 10, 2020

Chasing Shadows (Drew Patrick) by Jason Richards

 Faithful readers of my blog know I don't mind a book with a lot of the standard tropes. After all, the tropes are what make the PI genre great. This one might have done well to add something new to the mix though.

Ex-FBI agent Drew Patrick is hired to find out if indeed a woman's daughter is being led down the wrong path by a young man. It turns out she is right which has him up against some thugs. There's  a sidekick in the Joe Pike / Hawk mode who shows up all of a sudden. The story and the thugs reminded me of The Wanted by Robert Crais which I will soon review. The writing style is very much in the Robert B. Parker / Robert Crais style as well. Perhaps a bit too much.

It sounds interesting Patrick's girlfriend is a PI herself but she just shows up as a Susan clone to Patrick's Spenser.

I'm afraid this one just didn't do it for me. The writing was fast-paced enough to finish, but the action, plot, mystery or characters didn't stand out.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Ballast Point Breakdown (Rolly Waters) by Corey Lynn Fayman

In this fourth novel in the Rolly Waters series the guitar-playing private detective gets pulled into a strange case involving dolphins when a woman crawls from a boat on fire and screams about the return of Arion. The investigation touches some weird and interesting areas like dolphins used for warfare, a very dysfunctional family and the involvement of a punk rocker and animal-rights organzations.
There are so many things pulled into the story that it can get a bit confusing sometimes. I have to applaud the author though for making this a tale very different plotwise from most PI stories. The characters are very original. I especially enjoyed Rolly's dad who gets some very funny lines.
And of course, I love PI's who are involved in the music biz like my own Lenny Parker.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Free Fiction: Doggone Part Nine (A Lenny Parker serial) by Jochem Vandersteen

Lenny Parker, PI / roadie / metalhead is back in a new serial, blending a bit of comedy with a hardboiled detective story, one feet into metal culture. This time he is hired to track down a missing dog. Read the other parts here.


The cops had shown up pretty quickly. They arrested all of the spectators who hadn’t fled away yet. Among them was Cliff. It was satisfying to see him get led away in handcuffs. Among the dogs in the cages in the building was Ozzy. Obviously Cliff had dognapped it to sell to Luis and his men. An animal protection unit showed up to take care of them and managed to catch the loose dogs.
The cop who seemed to be in charge, a forty-something black man with glasses and a big moustache told Lenny, “Even though you called this one in we will need to cuff you as well until we’ve sorted this all out.”
“I understand,” Lenny said. “I’m just glad you guys are here. I hope these animals get back to their owners or a good home.”
“Yeah. I have to admit I wouldn’t mind throwing these assholes in the ring with these dogs so they can do some justice of their own,” the cop said.
Casey walked in, flanked by a young cop. She was wearing handcuffs. He told the black cop, “This lady was in a car outside and got kind of aggressive when I prohibited her from going inside.”
“I just wanted to make sure my friend is okay,” Casey said.
“Calling me a pig wasn’t the best way to achieve that,” the young cop said.
“Excuse my dear friend,” Lenny pleaded. “She can get a bit worked up sometimes but means well.”
“Yeah. Uncuff us. We’re not the bad guys here. We just blew the lid off a whole dognapping ring and illegal dog fighting organization. We’re heroes.”
“We’ll work that out at the station,” the black cop decided.
After the paperwork was done Casey and Lenny were allowed to go home again. No charges were pressed against Casey after she suggested the papers would be interested in hearing how she was arrested after freeing helpless animals from captivity. The cops didn’t need the bad press from animal rights organizations and she got off with just a slap on the wrist.
They visited Janson a day later, together with Janice. It was so good to see Ozzy reunited with the old man. The dog didn’t leave Janson’s side.
“I want to say I’m very grateful for your help. All of you. I really appreciate your help too, Janice. Please come over for coffee more often,” Janson said.
“I’d love to. And you should come over for diner sometime.”
Janson handed a crate to Lenny. “Here’s the Black Sabbath albums I promised you. A very small price for the danger you put yourself in.”
“I’m not sure I can really take this,” Lenny said. “Honestly, I think it was just my civic duty to do what I did. I can’t stand animals getting hurt.”
“Please, my hearing isn’t getting any better and I’m getting older. I’d rather leave them to you than my kids who never visit me. Take them.”
Lenny took the crate and looked inside. It was looking inside a treasure chest, but instead of gold doubloons it was filled with vinyl.


Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Rolling Thunder (Hammerhead Jed Ounstead) by A.J. Devlin

I just loved the first outing of Jed Ounstead. The wrestling setting and the light sense of humour were awesome. Things get better with this one. The comedy is amped up a bit more and the setting is not only wrestling but also the very interesting roller derby world.
Ex-wrestler Jed Ounstead (now a PI in his dad's firm) is asked by his old friend Stormy Daze to find her roller derby coach who's gone missing some time ago. Investigating he ends up in an S & M club, clashing with a shady rich guy who has his own TV show and more colorful characters than you see on any wrestling show. And then there's those two women he loves but cannot decide on.
There's so many laughs, funny situations and oneliners that I chuckled every page. Don't get me wrong, stuff can get pretty dark as well. And while Jed can be a laidback guy he can get very dark, brooding and gritty as well.
I just love Jed's archetype psycho sidekick Declan! Not only is he a deadly fighter his lines are so incredibly crude and funny... Yeah, this one has everything I love about the genre. Action, laughs, attractive women, mystery.
This one proves the first novel (Cobra Clutch) was not a one hit wonder. Can't wait for the third book.

Friday, June 12, 2020

OUT NOW: the first Lenny Parker collection!

Who likes the Lenny Parker story at my blog? Well, good news! I collected the first four serials in one nifty collection available here.

If you are a regular reader of this blog I'd appreciate you picking it up and spreading the word,

Pick up the book here.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Q & A with John Ryder

John Ryder is the pen name of a British crimewriter  who just came out with the first book in an exciting new series of thrillers starring tough guy loner Grant Fletcher. Of course I wanted to know more...

Q: What makes Grant Fletcher different from other hardboiled characters? 
This is a really good (hard to answer) question as Fletcher has many of the traits found in so many hardboiled characters. He’s comfortable operating alone, ready with his fists when necessary, brave, cynical, and dogged by past events that won’t give him inner peace.
I think his USP has to be that he’s not one of the love-em-and-leave-em characters. His wife died years ago and he still loves her, and to this end he’s never once looked at another woman.

Q: How did you come up with the character? 
I’ve read a lot of books featuring similar characters by authors such as Lee Child, Matt Hilton, Zoe Sharp and many others so I knew the basics that had to be included in a character who features in crime action thrillers. What I wanted to do when building Fletcher was imbue him with enough commonalities to make him familiar, yet also to have enough differences to make him stand out in a crowded field. Fletcher’s back story came from events that happened in the Sam Carver series by Tom Cain. The series ended on a bombshell with a hugely emotional thread that had me wondering about its psychological impact for years afterwards. I’ve been lucky enough to befriend Tom and receive permission to appropriate the event he never tied up. I did of course put my own spin on things and I consider what I have done to be a homage to a fantastic piece of writing rather than a continuation of his character’s story.

Q: What are your thoughts on eBooks? 
I like them for their convenience as commuters approaching the end of a book don’t have to lug their next read along for the journey home and holidaymakers can take a supply of books that don’t require a separate suitace. When it comes to my own reading I’m probably a 70 / 30 split in favour of paper or hardbacks, but that’s largely because I’m fortunate enough to have books sent to me. I also think that ebooks offer fantastic value for money as where else could you get many hours of entertainment for 99p or even £1.99?

 Q: What's next for you and your characters? 
Things are looking busy for myself, Fletcher and Quadrado. Book 2 is written and the copy edits have been sent back so there’s only the proofing stages to go through. The title and blurb are still to be finalised, but book 2 sees Quadrado calling on Fletcher to investigate the murder of her lifelong friend. Naturally for one of my stories, the killing has only just begun.

Q: What do you do when you're not writing? 
All the usual boring stuff. Read, watch TV, support my local football team, socialise with friends and family and plan murders.

Q: How do you promote your work? 
I’m lucky to have a fantastic publicist who does most of the heavy lifting. There are blog tours, social media posts, engaging with readers and writers. Occasionally I’ll run some ads to support what my publisher is doing, but mostly it’s about social media engagement.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like? 
I tend to be firmly stuck in the crime camp, but I read across almost all of its sub-genreswith the exception of cosy. I tend to mix things up with police procedurals, crime action thrillers, conspiracy thrillers, lost artefact stories and PI fiction to name but a few styles of the crime novels I read.

 Q: In the last century we've seen new waves of PI writers, first influenced by Hammett, then Chandler, Macdonald, Parker, later Lehane. Who do you think will influence the coming generation? 
This is another toughie to answer as I’d be very wary of burdening another writer with expectation, but some authors who write PI style fiction I read are Matt Hilton, LJ Morris and Rob Sinclair.

 Q: Why do you write in this genre? 
Because I get to read the story I want to read is the simple answer, but on a deeper level I think it’s because I love the puzzle element. While it’s always easier to set a puzzle than solve one, I take great enjoyment in seeding in clues and red herrings to misdirect readers while also worrying that I’m either being too obtuse or too obvious. Another great thing about writing crime stories is that I can explore themes and topics that interest me or that I feel ought to be brought to a wider audience.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Forceful Intent (Porter) by R.A. McGee

In the PI world you have the Lew Archers, the Philip Marlowes, Matt Scudders... And you have the Mike Hammers, Jack Reachers and Joe Pikes. This one falls in the last category. Porter is pretty much a man's man and absolutely a man of action. I must say his accountant sidekick and the name of the author made me think a bit of Travis McGee as well.
Porter (no last name in Spenser and Parker style) is an ex-FBI agent who is now working as a private investigator. When an old friend asks him to look into the disappearance of a young girl he clashes with street gangs and a very wealthy and evil psychopath. He gets some help from a lovely detective (bit of a tired trope, but hey, it's hardboiled pulp so who cares).
Porter is a very hardboiled guy, reminding me as I mentioned before of Reacher. He is sometimes a much a vigilante as he is an investigator. Sometimes he can even come over as a bit of an asshole. But it was those traits that made this novel so enjoyable to me as the story itself is fairly standard.
I'm going to read more of this series.

Friday, June 5, 2020

The Blues Don't Care (Bobby Saxon) by Paul D. Marks

What  a time for this book coming out. It is situated in WW II but is very topical now. Bobby Saxon is the only white musician in an all-black band. When one of the bandmembers get accused of murdering a racist Bobby is asked to investigate. It turns out Bobby is pretty good at investigating for an amateur. As you might expect this is not just a mystery but also a story about racism in the forties. What you don't expect is the incredible twist that will surprise you a few chapters in. It is this surprise that adds an extra layer that allows Saxon to give even some more extra social commentary.
I hate saying a book transcends the genre and I honestly usually don't like books that do. This one however does and might win some awards because of it.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

PWA Shamus Award Nominations 2020

The Shamus Award nominees are in. Excited to see favorites like James DF Hannah, Casey Barrett and Matt Coyle in there.

PRIVATE EYE WRITERS OF AMERICA SHAMUS AWARD NOMINEES 2020 for works published in 2019. (The lists below are in alphabetical order by author.) Congratulations for all!

Best Original Private Eye Paperback 

The Skin Game by JD Allen / Midnight Ink

Behind the Wall of Sleep by James DF Hannah / author

Paid in Spades by Richard Helms / Clay Stafford Books

Ration of Lies by M. Ruth Myers / author

The Bird Boys by Lisa Sandlin / Cinco Puntos Press

Best Private Eye Short Story 

“The Smoking Bandit of Lakeside Terrace” by Chad Baker in EQMM May/June

“Sac-A-Lait Man” by O’Neil De Noux in EQMM Sept/Oct

“The Dunes of Saulkrasti” by William Burton McCormick in EQMM Sept/Oct
“The Fourteenth Floor” by Adam Meyer in Crime Travel anthology from Wildside Press

“Weathering the Storm” by Michael Pool in The Eyes of Texas anthology from Down & Out Books

 Best Private Eye Novel 

The Tower of Songs by Casey Barrett / Kensington

Lost Tomorrows by Matt Coyle / Oceanview

The Shadows by Matt Goldman / Forge

Below the Line by Michael Gould / Dutton

Cold Way by Julia Keller / Minotaur

Monday, May 25, 2020

Lost Tomorrows (Rick Cahill) by Matt Coyle

I have read all books in this series and the ride over to this one has been great. The series started with PI Rick Cahill being suspected of killing his wife and him quitting the force as a result. Now he gets the chance to avenge her death.
When his former partner gets killed in a hit and run he's hired by her sister who suspects her death might not have been an accident. This has him investigating his own wife's death again and forces him to discover if he is willing to act as judge, jury and executioner.
As always Matt Coyle writes a well-paced crime novel that has room for mystery, action but also good characterization. Rick Cahill is a true anti-hero, always having to choose between right and wrong like my own Noah Milano. Always an inspiring read.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

The King of Tides (Lancaster and Daniels) by James Swain

James Swain is back with a new series. In this one ex-Navy Seal Jon Lancaster, somewhat a celebrity after shooting a kidnapper is hired to protect a young woman. His price? A new fridge. You see, he doesn't work for money but goods. Another quirk: he looks fat but is as tough as any action hero. Those are the most unusual traits for the hero. Note he is fleshed out well enough to never seem too one-dimensional.
The girl he needs to protect has an alarming number of stalkers for a regular girl. The reason behind this is quite surprising and leads Lancaster to team-up with FBI agent Beth Daniels who has a personal reason for doing her work. You see, Beth was abducted when she was young.
What follows is an exciting search for the reasons the girl is being stalked which takes Lancaster and Daniels to some uncomfortable areas.
There's huge load of twists and turns in this one, which reminded me a bit of a Harlan Coben novel. I figure this one to be a bit more of a thriller than a standard hardboiled PI novel. I must say that was part of the fun. It's really a page-turner. Sometimes I had to struggle to suspend my disbelief, but I admit I read this one in just a few days.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Free Fiction: Doggone Part Eight (A Lenny Parker serial) by Jochem Vandersteen

Lenny Parker, PI / roadie / metalhead is back in a new serial, blending a bit of comedy with a hardboiled detective story, one feet into metal culture. This time he is hired to track down a missing dog. Read the other parts here.

Lenny parked his truck near Market Street and killed the lights. Casey was with him, sitting next to him.
“You take the wheel. When I come out you get us away from here as quick as you can,” Lenny told her.
“Expecting trouble?” she asked him.
“I’m going undercover at an illegal dogfighting ring. If shit goes sour it will probably get real sour,” Lenny explained.
Casey nodded. “Sounds logical. Be careful, Len.”
“Sure,” he said and left the car.
The street was quiet, but a little further ahead he noticed a high number of parked cars. That had to be near the warehouse. He walked closer. Indeed, the cars were parked near a big abandoned warehouse. The windows of the building were boarded shut, but there was some light coming through the wood. Two big dudes were in front of the warehouse’s door, arms folded, all attitude.
“Hey,” Lenny said by way of introduction.
One of the big guys, a muscular black man with a sleeveless green shirt and camo-pants gave him a dirty look. “Move along.”
“Scooby Doo,” Lenny said, feeling a bit silly as he did.
The other guy at the door, a Caucasian dude with a hipster beard and a shitload of tattoos frowned. “I haven’t seen you before.”
“I’m new. But eager to spend some money,” Lenny said.
The black man shrugged. “He’s got the password right.”
“I guess,” the hipster said. “Arms up, spread your legs.”
“Huh?” Lenny went, but before he could say anything else the hipster was frisking him.
“Clean,” the hipster said.
The black guy opened the door. Lenny walked into the warehouse, saying thanks.
There had to be at least forty guys in the warehouse. They were seated on wooden benches that surrounded an impromptu fighting ring created by wooden gates. Next to the gates stood half a dozen cages. In the cages Lenny spotted ferocious looking dogs. He couldn’t be sure if Ozzy was in there too, though.
A Hispanic man with slicked back hair and a long leather jacket approached him. “You’re new, right?”
“Yeah,” Lenny admitted.
“I’m Luis. I will take your bets,” the Hispanic man said.
“Okay. I’m Lenny. Cool.”
“Already have any favorites?” Luis asked.
“Not yet. But I usually root for the underdog.”
Luis laughed. “Quite funny! But seriously, going for the less popular fighter will get you the most profit in case it wins.”
“All right, twenty bucks on the least popular then,” Lenny said.
“Minimum bet is a hundred,” Luis told the roadie.
Lenny sighed. This case was costing him a lot. He forked it over, though.  “Okay, here’s a hundred.”
“Great. A hundred on Cujo.”
Cujo? Seriously? Originality wasn’t these guys strong suit, Lenny thought. He walked over to the cages.
“What are you doing?” Luis asked.
“Getting a better look at the dogs,” Lenny told him. “I want to know what I just bet on.”
“Take a seat please. We don’t want you to get too close to the fighters. For your own safety. And of course, we don’t want anyone sabotaging the fight, you understand?”
“Sounds logical,” Lenny agreed and went over to the benches. The bench slightly creaked under his weight. Obviously, profits didn’t go into the furniture.
Lenny was sitting next to a guy in his fifties with a moustache and a scarred eyebrow. The man gave Lenny a look. He refrained from asking if he was new, but Lenny had no doubt that was going through the man’s mind. Obviously this case catered to a regular audience.
From his bench Lenny tried to get a better look the dogs in the cages, but the light lower than at a black metal concert, obscuring the animals from his view.
Luis walked into the gates and turned out to be the ringmaster of the evening. “Ladies and gentlemen, get ready for the first match!”
There was some excited applause. Lenny tried to muster up some as well, imagining he was watching Exhumed or Testament on stage.
“In one corner we have Cujo, in the other we have the great Cerberus!” Luis announced.
Two guys in coveralls opened two cages and led the dogs at their collars into the ring. The dogs wore muzzles. The men in coveralls removed the muzzles and quickly got behind the gates. To Lenny’s horror the dogs rapidly went at each other’s throats. Ozzy wasn’t one of the dogs but Lenny felt compelled to break it up. He figured Luis and his men wouldn’t exactly be too happy about that, not to mention the forty spectators.
Lenny started to wonder what exactly he was going to do when in fact he found Ozzy here. He’d come in there to find that dog. But it didn’t look like he had any way to get the dog out of there without losing his own life. Maybe he should have thought this over better.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Farewell, Las Vegas (Joe Roddick) by Grant Bywaters.

Grant Bywaters, author of The Red Storm (winner of PWA Best First PI Novel contest in 2015) is back. In this novel (a standalone?) we meet Las Vegas PI Joe Roddick who takes on a case for a casino. We meet his daughter who is quite good with computers. There's also a ruthless hitman called Scorpion. As the the story unfolds it moves in some surprising directions. While at first I figured this would be a story about Joe with a minor role for his daughter to give him some more background and emotional baggage as I have seen in many other PI stories Bywaters manages to throw me for a loop. It's hard to say who is the main protagonist of the book in the end; Joe, his daughter or Scorpion.
All in all an enjoyable read. Especially the action of Scorpion and the fact Roddick's daughter might be a cool role for a younger popular actress made me think this could be a good Netflix movie or something.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Inside Cut (C.T. Ferguson) by Tom Fowler

C.T. Ferguson is the star of quite a number of books now. The concept of a hacking PI that gets paid by his rich parents after a job well done is what got me interested in this series.
In this one Ferguson is hired by the mother of  a basketball star to find out if her son is throwing games under the influence of bad guys. The investigation leads into a kidnapping, forcing Ferguson to break the law, aided by his pals from both sides of the law.
As always, the tech used is very realistic, the fights are exciting and well written. There's also a pretty good car chase in this one. A bonus is the relationship between Ferguson and his lover, Gloria, which is growing with each novel.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Free Fiction: Doggone Part Seven (A Lenny Parker serial) by Jochem Vandersteen

Lenny Parker, PI / roadie / metalhead is back in a new serial, blending a bit of comedy with a hardboiled detective story, one feet into metal culture. This time he is hired to track down a missing dog. Read the other parts here.


Lenny met up with Baby Jackson’s snitch in  a dive bar in the worst part of San Diego. Baby had described the man as an ugly dude with a red goatee and pockmarked face. It wasn’t difficult to find him. Not that most guys in the bar weren’t ugly. The snitch was the only one with a red goatee. He was sitting in  a booth in the back, nursing a large beer.
Lenny ordered a bottle of Corona at the bar and walked over to the snitch’s booth. According to Baby he was known by the name of Ugly Jim. That was obviously not one of those ironic nicknames, like tall dudes they call Tiny. Aside from a pockmarked face Jim was cross-eyed, had no eyebrows and huge ears. Lenny suddenly felt like he was Tom Cruise himself.
“Jim?” Lenny ventured as he neared the man’s booth.
“Have a seat then.”
Lenny sat down. “Thanks for meeting me.”
“If there’s money to be had, Jim shows up.”
“Err… Good to hear that I guess. So yeah… Nice place here.”
Jim chuckled. “It’s a fucking shithole. But at least I’m not the ugliest guy around here.” Lenny thought that was up for debate in a big way but didn’t comment on that.
“At least they stock Corona,” Lenny said and toasted Jim’s mug of beer with his bottle.
“I only drink domestic myself. So, let’s get down to business. Jackson told me you need some intel on the gambling biz?”
“Yeah. Gambling on dogfights to be exact.”
Jim whistled. “Whoo-ee. That’s specific. You a gambling man, Lenny?”
“No, not at all. It’s this case I’m working on. A missing dog. I think it might have been dognapped by people involved with dogfights.”
“Yeah, Jackson mentioned you’re in the same business as she is, although not in the same league. So, what exactly do you want to know about that?”
“Well, I guess I want to look around at one of the fights. Get into contact with the organizers to see if I can find the dog.”
“You do understand that could get a bit dangerous, right? I mean… Those dogs are worth serious money to those dudes. They won’t exactly hand over the dog when you find it.”
“I’ll cross that bridge then. So, can you help me?”
“For two-hundred bucks I might.” Ugly Jim smiled an even uglier smile.
Lenny sighed. “Baby warned me you’re not cheap.”
“Fuck you, that’s a steal. I need to make a living, you know.”
“I ain’t got that kind of dough to pay you. A hundred I can do. Maybe some concert tickets to a band you like.”
Jim squinted. “You think you can get me some Five Finger Death Punch tickets?”
Lenny nodded. “I think I can. I know a dude who works with them. Used to roadie for him back in the day.”
“How do I know you’re not bullshitting me?”
“How do I know you’re not?”
Jim cackled. “Fuck me, Jackson turned you some shit, didn’t she?”
Lenny smiled. Then he got a hundred dollar bill from his battlejacket’s pocket. He put it on the table. Jim’s hand went to it, but Lenny’s hand covered it before the snitch could grab it.
“Not so fast, Jim. Tell me a bit more.”
“All right. Listen, there’s a dogfight coming up tomorrow night. Right here in merry San Diego. They rented an empty warehouse for that shit. You got the correct password and you can come in, twenty dollars cover charge.”
Slowly Lenny’s hand lifted a bit from the dollar bill. “Go on. Where is the warehouse?”
“Near Market Street.”
“What’s the password?”
“Promise me you won’t ever tell them I was the one who gave it to you.”
“One of the main skills a private investigator needs to have is knowing how to keep things confidential. I’ll keep my trap shut, Jimmy.”
Jim put a hand on the corner of the dollar bill. “It’s Scooby Doo.”
“Brilliant password,” Lenny said and allowed Jim to grab the money. It disappeared in Jim’s pocket like magic.
“But be careful, dude. If they find out you’re not there to gamble and watch the dogs fight they could get nasty on your ass.”
“I didn’t know you cared,” Lenny said.
“As long as I don’t have that Five Finger Death Punch ticket in my pocket I do.”
“You’re all heart, Jimmy,” Lenny said and drained his Corona.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Dan Spalding Mystery Collection (Dan Spalding) by Richard Prosch

This is a lot of bang for your buck. Collecting three Dan Spalding mystery novels in one low-priced little ebook I had to snap this one up.
In the first of the stories collected ex-cop and record store owner Dan Spalding looks into the death of shoplifter and gets involved with the murder of an entertainer. In the second story he is hired to protect a college professor who is being threatened. The third tale (that I reviewed before when it came out first) has him help out a buddy who blackmails the wrong person.
These are fine tales. The fact Spalding owns a record store is fun as are the playlists added to the stories. Spalding is a pretty cool tough guy with his bike and leather jacket which adds a bit of a pulp flavor to the stories which I enjoyed. Add to that his interesting and sexy employee / girlfriend and their developing relationship and some nice and clean prose and you have an entertaining read on your hands.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Wright & Wrong (Rafferty) by W. Glenn Duncan Jr.

In the second book W. Glenn Duncan Jr. writes, following in the footsteps of his father we read how Rafferty gets involved with a high school shooting. When one of the shooters he himself witnessed ends up on life-support Rafferty doesn't really feel like proving that shooter was innocent. When he at last gets involved he will have to take on some very angry parents.
While Duncan Jr's feel of Rafferty and sidekicks Mimi and Cowboy is just excellent I did think the story is a bit thin and could have done with 40 less pages. Aside from that, most people who enjoyed the earlier tales or are into Spenser might be able to enjoy this as a charming and quick read. The prose is very readable and the dialogue quite snappy.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Free Fiction: Doggone Part Six (A Lenny Parker serial) by Jochem Vandersteen

Lenny Parker, PI / roadie / metalhead is back in a new serial, blending a bit of comedy with a hardboiled detective story, one feet into metal culture. This time he is hired to track down a missing dog. Read the other parts here.


Lenny met up with Baby Jackson at a local Starbucks. The other patrons, especially the male ones looked up from their Macbooks and iPhones when she walked in. Tall, athletic with a model’s cheekbones Baby cut an impressive figure. She was wearing tight jeans, a long leather jacket and wore her hair in cornrows as she always does.
She walked over to Lenny’s table. He handed her a cup of coffee. “I already have yours. Black, like you want it.”
“Good to know you remembered something from training with us.” She was referring to the time Lenny spent with Baby Jackson and her dad, Old Man Jackson to get his private investigator license.
“I seem to remember a very large part of my duties were supplying you with coffee and donuts,” Lenny said. He was having a big White Chocolate Mocha himself. He liked to treat himself to something sweet every now and then. Like daily.
Baby sat down. “So, spill. What do you need?”
“You’re hurting my feelings a bit. Maybe I just wanted to see you again. Chew the fact. Talk about your love life. Your health.”
“Who I fuck is none of your business. And you can see I’m in perfect health as always. Now cut the shit. We never meet socially.”
“All right, all right. Sheesh, I can see you’re a top investigator. Seeing through my lies like glass. Okay, I need some advice on a case I’m working on. It’s about dognapping.” Lenny filled her in while Baby listened patiently and drank her coffee.
When Lenny was finished she put down her coffee and leaned back a little. “Dognapping is more common than you might think. It hardly shows up on the news, but daily dogs are stolen from their owners. Sometimes they are stolen so they can get a ransom from the owners. Sometimes the dog is of a rare and expensive breed and they just sell them. And then there’s the whole dogfighting thing. They are either used then to fight or just train the fighters.”
“I was hoping dogfights were an urban myth or something. I heard about it on tour in Asia. But it’s a thing here in the United States?”
“Shit, Lenny… How can you still be such a na├»ve little shit. Yes, there’s such a thing. Fuck, it’s huge. There’s a considerable amount of money to be made gambling on thes fights. And where there’s money to be made, people are willing to commit atrocities.”
“Yeah, I guess. Well, since Mr. Janson never got any ransom amounts and Ozzy’s not a rare breed I’m afraid we’ll have to consider he is indeed in the hands of dogfighters.”
Baby nodded. “That sucks, I know. I like dogs better than people.”
“I’m not sure you actually like people at all.”
Baby shot him with her finger. “Bingo.”
Lenny chuckled. “You’re something else, Baby… So, do you have any experience with a case like this? Any idea how I could track down Ozzy?”
“Doesn’t he have a chip implanted? A lot of dogs these days have.”
“I guess not. Janson never mentioned it.”
“All right. Then you might have to look around the dogfighting circuit.”
“I wouldn’t know where to start or find anyone who knows anything about it.”
“I might know a guy who can help. A snitch who’s got a good knowledge about the local illegal gambling scene. If you want me to, I can set something up. I’m not sure if you current pay can cover your expenses though.”
“Damn, they can hardly cover this coffee. I like Mr. Janson and I just want to see him reunited with his dog. I’m not in this one for the money.”
“Fucking sap. I thought we taught you better. No pay, no case.”
Lenny shrugged. “What can I say? I’m a do-gooder.”
“You fucking are.”