Wednesday, February 29, 2012

FIDDLE CITY - Dan Kavanagh

The second 'Duffy' story written by Julian Barnes under under his pen name. Again a very low key story with Duffy being hired to uncover a series of thefts at a freight firm situated at Heathrow Airport - Fiddle City-.

He plods away in an undercover role meeting hindrance after hindrance from staff and management alike but eventually he solves one problem and uncovers a much more serious crime.

Its not a bad read but lacking a lot of the humour that was present  in the previous story of his I have read but it makes sense and is well written as you would expect from Barnes.

The only question I have over this and the whole series is what is the point of having the main man bi-sexual? Generally sex in a crime novel is a distraction , with Duffy doing both boys and girls you just end up twice as distracted.

A fair work and its short so even if it doesn't completely enthrall you it is over quickly. ( Published 1981)

Monday, February 27, 2012

BLEED A RIVER DEEP - Brian McGilloway

The third outing for Inspector Devlin and he hasn't got any smarter. As in the first two of this series half the trouble is caused by Devlin and if not by him, by other members of the constabulary. The trouble unfortunately results in people dieing.

As a detective Devlin is just a dogged plodder and stubborn with it, his solving the crime involves quiet a bit of luck.

This story involves illegal immigrants and gold, again set in the borderlands of Ireland.  Devlin isn't the brightest but the authors plots are outstanding, 8 out of 10 and they save the books.

So, I'll keep reading them, Devlin must learn soon to think just a tad before acting. (Published 2010)

DIRTY STORY - Eric Ambler

Arthur Simpson, man without a country is trying desperately to get a passport, any passport,the country is of no consequence. To do this he needs cash, so he is hired to make a pornographic movie but that  goes pear shaped.

After his directing debut he finds himself on a ship hiding but he still has no passport. On board thanks to the fact that he is an inveterate liar he signs a contract to fight with a band of mercenaries in a African back water that is hoping to realise great mineral wealth.

So, even though our hero is a loser, liar and not a very nice person he manages to land on his feet, if not entirely squarely.

Eric Ambler does not write dull stuff, this isn't one of his best works but its pure entertainment from the start, if you are lucky enough to find it at a garage sale, grab it. (Published 1967)

Monday, February 20, 2012

FIELD GRAY - Philip Kerr

This is the seventh "Bernie Gunther" novel.   Again, like "If the Dead Rise Not " most of it is told in back story spanning the years 1954 back to 1931 with the rise of the Nazi's.

It starts with Bernie being captured off the coast of Cuba by the CIA and ends with him back in Europe.

The main gist of the novel is Bernie's inter action with a German communist Erich Mielke, a real person, who was head of the East German Security System from 1957 until 1989.  Meilke was one of the most hated men that the East German communist regime threw up.

There is no mystery here just a history of the 25 years the novel encompasses.   Its a great read with the interweaving of fact with fiction fascinating but if you are expecting a straight line plot you will be disappointed.

One thing that stuck out for me was how complicit the French were in loading the trains for the death camps, they were great supporters and as Bernie points out in the book then stuck their hand up to be one of the occupying powers.

We have Bernie double crossing, being double crossed and then I suppose a triple cross at the end bringing the story to a close.  Again lots of violence as these novels have always dished up.

I loved it, Kerr can write and he has got better and better and is now a "real" novelist, not just a "crime" novelist , to me he is literary and is still extremely readable, two thumbs up.  (Published 2011)

Monday, February 13, 2012

THE DOOMSTERS - Ross MacDonald

The Lew Archer series by Ross MacDonald have been described by The New York Times " the finest series of detective novels ever written by an American".  This is as per the back cover of my edition , this is accurate and would probably apply to any country not just the U S A.

Archer is the ultra cynical private eye who keeps on believing that human nature can't be as bad as he sees it and continually gets disappointed. 

"The Doomsters " starts with Archer being woken by an escapee from a mental hospital who claims to have been committed so as to deprive him of his inheritance.

Our 'knight' Archer becomes involved trying to solve several historic deaths and a few recent ones connected with this one family.

Along the way he encounters several layers of evil involving everyone in the story.   MacDonald writes so well about the weakness's of humans, his writing is much more than hard boiled detective fiction.

There is some Archer back story in this story that I haven't encountered in the other novels in the series that I have read.

This story is not as good as "The Chill" but then again nothing is, but it's a good murder mystery and a fine way to spend a Sunday on the couch. (Published 1958)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

THE FIRST RULE - Robert Crais

A 'Joe Pike' novel featuring Elvis Cole on the periphery this time.

The Pike novels are turning out to be excellent fantasy, very violent with a plausible plot.

A ex- military contractor friend of Pike's is murdered in an apparent random home invasion burglary. Not only do they kill the friend but his wife and babies as well.

Pike sets out to avenge these killings and to clarify to himself whether or not his mate was involved in any crime.

His investigation leads to two very nasty Serbian gang leaders involved in a feud.

One thing about 'Joe Pike' if he has a gun to a person's head and threatens to shoot if he's not supplied the information there's no mucking about, he just shoots you, he doesn't do too much debate.

Excellent crime fantasy with a colossal body count. Always recommended (Published 2010)

Sunday, February 5, 2012


This is written by Booker Prize winner Julian Barnes under his pseudonym Dan Kavanagh.

The hero is a very low key bi-sexual ex-policeman "Duffy" who is hired by the manager of a struggling third division football club to look into who is nobbling his best players.   Loosing these players seems to ensure that club will be relegated in the black hole of fourth division football and total obscurity.

As a mystery it is all very low key with a broken ankle being the most violent incident in the book so if you desire a high body count in your reading its probably not for you.

What it is, is wickedly funny.   Duffy is a natural worrier, he worries about everything, his big one is contracting AIDS, he worries about being the goalie for his local pub football side  and he worries about his relationship with policewoman 'Carol' who he has a chaste relationship with, they sleep together but its very chaste.  He's not stupid though and does what he is hired to do. 

I have read various books written by Booker Prize winners and have always struggled to understand them but with this book Kavanagh ( Barnes ) has written something that's very simple, with brilliant dialogue and excellent entertainment.

The Duffy books are very difficult to get hold of as they were written mid- eighties and are out of print. They are totally unattainable in New Zealand but fortunately US readers re-cycle their books through second hand stores and I have located three of the four written through this network.

Well worth the effort if you like a quirky read. This one reminded me of a Joe Sexsmith mystery written by the recently departed Reginald Hill,  this will have been written first  just that I read the Hill books first.   Great stuff.   (Published 1985 )

Saturday, February 4, 2012

TAKEN - Robert Crais

This is a departure from the normal Elvis Cole / Joe Pike story in that it is told in a non linear fashion, chapter jumping between characters and back in forth in time.

The basic plot is two teenagers have been kidnapped by 'bajadores' -bandits- that kidnap illegal immigrants and demand ransom from their families. If the monies are not paid they are murdered. Cole is hired to recover these two and ends up being kidnapped himself. Which results in Joe Pike being unleashed.

As a plot its pretty basic and if the story was linear it would be very ordinary but the time shifting and having separate chapters from the view point of several characters works. There are even chapters from the point of view of the victims.

The mode of story telling builds tension nicely right up to the very violent ending.

A good book recommended highly for fans and the casual reader alike.
(Published 2012)

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Ed Cauthorne is quietly selling vintage  cars when two mafia enforcers walk in and make him the classic 'offer that can't be refused.'

Cauthorne, a retired stuntman,  believes he is responsible for the death of the 'god son' of a senior Mafioso, who it now appears has risen from the dead after two years. 

With some heavy handed coercion they want Ed to travel to Singapore to recover information that the 'god son' has stolen.  They need Ed to go as they believe the recently risen Angelo will only deal with him.

'Singapore Wink is another classic Thomas tale of betrayal, deceit and the normal humour. This is much more of a romp than some of his other work with some very camp characters and an outlandish scenario.

As stated before you will never be disappointed by the late lamented Ross Thomas. (Published 1969)