Monday, January 30, 2012


This is the fourth Bernie Gunther I've read. The first part of the story is set in Berlin in 1934 prior to the 1936 Olympics. Bernie has left the police and is the house detective at a upmarket hotel.

A murder in one of the rooms and an American gangster in another room gets Bernie digging and this takes us into labour racketeering with the construction of the Olympic stadium as the background . As always there  are constant accurate reminders of the evil of Nazism with the ways the Jews were treated even as early as 1934.   Avery Brundage, former head of the Olympic Committee, does not come out of this smelling at all well and shows the Olympic committee has been corrupt for many many years.

Part two of the novel jumps to 1954 in Havana ,Cuba, where Bernie has landed from Argentina. Here his path crosses that of the American gangster and his love interest from Berlin after twenty years.

This is a good mystery, I was very cynical until the last few pages thinking that Kerr had two stories and couldn't make two novels out of them and had just cobbled them together but once its read the whole book makes sense.

The Bernie Gunther character is a more violent Lew Archer with fewer scruples but similar regarding their own version of what is the decent thing to do.

This series is highly recommended if you are into great one liners and the dark side of life.

(Published 2009)

Sunday, January 29, 2012


Political Manager Clint Shartelle and P.R guru Peter Upshaw are contracted to see that Chief Sunday Akomolo is elected Premier of the soon to be independent African nation Albertia.

To do this they enlist campaign tactics from the U.S that have seen Shartelle's candidates loose only once in his career. Upshaw is there to write the speeches , pay the bills and drink alot of gin and brandy.

As usual with Ross Thomas the dialogue is sharp and sparkles, the story is interesting with insider information regarding how campaigns are run.

Amusing and as with all Thomas's writings a twist in the tail at the end.

Thomas never wrote a bad sentence and I am an unashamed cheerleader but it is very good. This is out of print  which is a crime but is available over the net from the U.S. (Published 1967)

Friday, January 27, 2012

GALLOWS LANE - Brian McGilloway

The second Inspector Benedict Devlin Mystery, again set on the border of Ireland and the North.

A series of nasty murders occur including a Crucifixion done with twelve inch nails - not a common way for authors to dispatch their characters. At the same time a number of young women are being sexually assaulted and killed - all this and a dollop of police corruption thrown in.

This is another good read with lots of nasty characters just like McGilloway's first effort 'Borderlands'.

The crimes are all solved; in a logical and sensible way, no superhero antics involved but then you could never accuse Devlin of being the sharpest knife in the drawer by any stretch of the imagination. He is no Sherlock Holmes when it comes to lateral thinking, but I suppose this makes the character more human.

A good crime novel and I will follow this series. ( Published 2008)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


The fifth 'Cliff Janaway" Bookman mystery. Cliff is contacted to appraise a collection of children's books worth many thousands by the family of the deceased collector to get a Will finalised.

On arrival he discovers that many  books are missing and have been replaced by copies and that  books worth even more have been left behind.

To solve this problem he has to confirm that the owner of the books was murdered twenty years earlier and then delve into her life to explain the book mystery. To do this he gets involved in the families other business which is race horses, travelling to Californian race tracks working as a groom.

Its a good story  not the best and although the author looses his way in the middle he manages to get  it all back on track  in a very hurried fashion at the end  and reaches a satisfying conclusion.

We have some good violence and interesting facts about the racing scene this time. Not so much information regarding the second hand book scene as in the two previous stories I have read.                    ( Published 2006)

Sunday, January 22, 2012


If you want four hours of absolute escapism this is for you. Dr. Jonathan Hemlock, art historian, mountaineer and assassin returns. This time he is in London and is coerced into locating films of establishment figures taken in compromising positions with professional women. This will involve lots of killing and other fictional assassin type stuff.

It total fantasy and not a cultural experience ,its a very violent James Bondish read but the writing is of a higher calibre.

It does slip into total parody in parts and the language dates it but its the perfect airport book.

I'd be very surprised if you can find it even in a secondhand store in New Zealand but again there's plenty on the Internet. I got mine from Trinity City Books, Garland, Texas for $1 plus postage. (Published 1973)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

CHARLOTTE GRAY - Sebastian Faulks

In 1942 Charlotte Gray, a young Scottish woman is parachuted in France to assist another intelligence agent who struggles with the language. She then stays on to look for her lover, a RAF pilot who is missing in action.

The books concentrates on the occupants of the village where she bases herself, Lavaurette. There is very little in regards direct wartime action but rather its all about the personalities of these people as circumstances change, some for the better some for the worst.

It is a harrowing read in places due to the fact that the weakness's and ignorance of people lead directly to the deaths of some of their fellow villagers. As the book says 'evil is easy'.

Reading this I didn't realise how keen the French were on bundling their Jewish neighbours off to the concentration camps, sadly they were very keen indeed.

This story has a basis in fact and I  believe  people should never be allowed to forget the monstrosity that was Nazism , that is why quality writing like this on the subject is needed.

Not a relaxing read but worth the effort. (Published 1998)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


What a delightful surprise from the bargain bin ($3.00).

Detective Benedict Devlin has three recent murders and one old one going back 25 years to solve. It seems that a police colleague is implicated in the whole affair.

Set in Ireland right on the border with the north we have a great wee whodunit, full of totally dislikeable characters, lots of red herrings and a good plot.

This is the first outing for McGilloway and is recommended it continues to surprise right to the end. (Published 2007)

Monday, January 16, 2012

POLICE AT THE FUNERAL - Margery Allingham

From 1931 we have Albert Campion solving the murder of a loathed nephew in a country house, a house still living in Victorian times run by the 80 year old matriarch.

Its pretty standard whodunnit fare, lots of suspects and red herrings strewn about. All the information is given to the reader to solve the mystery but it plods along so pedantically it gets to the stage where the reader couldn't be bothered.

This is the fourth Campion novel by Allingham and evidently the series picked up,so perhaps this one was an off day rather than representative of the entire series. (Published 1931)

Friday, January 13, 2012

CHASING THE DIME - Michael Connelly

This is a stand alone novel from Connelly as opposed to his Harry Bosch series.

The scenario involves Henry Pierce a computer genius moving into a new apartment and receiving numerous calls from clients of a call girl who previously had this number.

From here Henry is dragged into the Los Angeles world of escort services and Internet web sites.

The story has some merit but the plotting is ridiculous, which is a shame because Connelly is usually so much better than this. He puts out a lot of books so I am presuming this was a bad day, however his editor needs a kick in the backside for letting it go out as is.(Published 2002)

Thursday, January 12, 2012


The second adventure involving Richard Hannay, the hero from 'The 39 Steps'.

This story is set during the Great War and Hannay volunteers with two associates to travel to occupied territory to uncover a plot that could see Britain loose the war.

The language is old fashioned and many today will laugh at the idea of King and Country and 'honour' but this is an excellent old fashioned adventure yarn, a forebear of Indiana Jones. Great fun. (Published 1916)

Monday, January 9, 2012

ETON CROP - Bill James

A Harpur and Iles novel involving the placing of a undercover policewoman into local drug gangs.

Iles is still very funny and bent, Harpur seems to put up with it but at the end of the book , I just asked myself, what was the point, it just got silly and I knew I had wasted my time. (Published 1999)

Sunday, January 8, 2012


Set in Ireland our hero, Jack Valentine, a cross between James Bond and 22 SAS, takes on one last job. This involves locating a body that was buried in Northern Ireland in the 70's ,one that should not have been there and recovering a package.

Along the way he enlists the help of loyalists and provo's alike as well as most intelligence agencies around the world.

A highlight involves a channel crossing in a major storm in Valentines converted trawler.

It is far fetched, very , but very readable. Its well written, Creed is the pen name of Eoin McNamee. Worth the effort and as it only cost me fifty cents at a book fair complaining would be miserable in the extreme. (Published 2002)

Friday, January 6, 2012


Elizabeth Cree is hanged at the beginning of this book for the murder of her husband, but was she guilty?

We are then taken into the Victorian world of theatre and gross murder.

Ackroyd writes about London superbly and he has managed to combine this with a good crime novel, some wonderfully horrible writing here.(Published  1994)

GOODBYE TO BERLIN - Christopher Isherwood

Written in 1945 this consists of a semi fictionalised diary and four short stories that all inter link.

These stories are the basis for the musical 'Caberet'.

What these stories do do is give a street level view of Germany in the early 1930's as Nazism was taking hold, it wasn't abrupt just insidious, many people doing nothing was all it took.

As I said these stories are semi autobiographical, an easy read Isherwood had a great ear for relaying conversation.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

HAVANA BAY -Martin Cruz Smith

The fourth Arkady Renko novel. Here he travels to Havana to identify the body of a Russian found dead in Havana Bay.

The facts don't add up and he persistently digs into the circumstances. Along the way he enlists the help of a Cuban Policewoman ,(never ugly,always beautiful,obviously unattractive woman are never helpful).

After seeing William Hurt portray Renko in 'Gorky Park' he is forever this character when I read about him, his slow pedantic speech and manner was played superbly by Hurt so this book just rocks along slowly, sometimes so slowly the book treads water, but its a good story. And like most things 'follow the money'. (Published 1999)

Sunday, January 1, 2012


The second outing for retired Denver detective now book dealer Cliff Janaway.

He is looking for a girl believed to be in posession of a rare book by Edgar Alan Poe. This leads to a tale of obession and madness with a few murders thrown in

Again we have an excellent mystery coupled with trivia regarding the rare and used book trade which I find fascinating. The author is a book dealer so they information supplied is first rate.

The books are unavailable in New Zealand but there are plenty out of the USA, thank goodness. (Published 1995)