For All Our Sins – T.M.E. Walsh

for all our sinsI’m on chapter nineteen of this train-wreck, almost one third through… and I just had to shelve it at this point.

I don’t know if the author intended this story to be ‘Young Adult’ fiction, but based on the childness of the main characters, and other dysfunctional relations within this police office, I just can not take it anymore.

This snippet below, an exchange between the team lead Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Claire Winters and her subordinate Detective Sargent (DS) Michael Diego is a typical one for these two… its petty, vindictive, antagonistic, its like watching spoiled children… we are introduced to these characters in this state, and it isn’t getting any better. There appears to be no adult in this police station. Detective Inspector (DI) David Matthew outwardly gloats over having a current case reassigned from DS Diego like a child being given another child’s toy.

I’m one third into this soap opera and I feel I’ve given it a fair shot. It opens with a young woman killing a priest with her switchblade and that opening chapter closes out with a line of such promise “The dead cannot cry out for justice. It is a duty of the living to so so for them.” And I thought the chapter well done. But then… we meet DCI Claire Winters smack in the middle of some ‘mysterious’ undefined sub-plot and being called into work because of the homicide. Then we meet more of the cast and the characters come onstage antagonistic and unnaturally confrontational right from the start.

Then we get to interviewing a person of interest, and following up on their dysfunctional family life with runaway daughter and ‘mysterious’ foster children… there is the questioning of the daughter, and then thrown into this mix is an aside… a chapter with an inmate escaping from a local asylum for the criminally insane… and since that scene has none of the main characters in it… it stands as a well written chapter, much like the promising first chapter, but right after that, its back to the juvenile detectives.

So, being that there is so little time and so many more reading options, I’ve shelved this book in favor of starting the third DCI Erika Foster novel…

  She called Michael to her office.

She stared at him as he sat in front of her desk, his hair messy and his face unshaven. He had dark circles under his normally clear eyes and his shirt didn’t look like it’d seen an iron in a long time.

‘Nice weekend?’ she asked. ‘Or should I say, eventful?’ She eyed him up and down. He shot her a sleepy look but ignored her question. ‘Judging by the look of you shirt, I’d say eventful.’

He stared down at his notepad, vacant expression on his face. Claire grew annoyed.

Leaning forward she clicked her fingers in front of his face. ‘Are you even fit to be in work, Diego? I’ve called a team briefing in twenty minutes and you’re looking fucked.’

‘Sorry,’ he managed. ‘I guess I overdid it.’

She stared hard at him and felt the slight twinge of jealousy.

She remembered that look of his. It hadn’t been that long ago that she’d been on the receiving end of his wild nights out. It was obvious to her that this weekend he’d been showing someone else a good time, and she hated the thought of it.

Crooked House – Agatha Christie

crooked houseA classic British mystery first published in 1949

Charles, a young man striking out on a career in the diplomatic service returns home to England after the war to look up a young woman he knew in Cairo and ask for her hand. But, as is the fashion in a Christie novel, a corpse stands in the way. Well, that’s the lead into Crooked House a mystery of a well-heeled immigrant family three generations living at the family estate Three Gables in Swinly Dean, whose patriarch Aristide Leonides has died in rather uncertain circumstances.

Sophia, Aristide’s granddaughter, whose hand it is being sought, invites Charles to the house to meet her family and discretely see if he can assist the police, lead by Chief Inspector Traverner, as Charles’s father is an Assistant Commissioner at Scotland Yard and perhaps he may be able to see into the heart of the matter as the inspector appears stymied in his efforts to delve into the family secrets.

Of the characters in residence at the estate are Aristide’s two sons Philip (Sophia’s father) and Richard, their wives Magda and Clemence respectively, and Sophia’s younger brother Eustice and her younger sister Josephine. Also, there is Sophia’s great-aunt Edith de Haviland, sister to Aristide’s first wife, and his second wife Brenda Leonides (fifty years his junior).

The story moves at a slow pace… leisurely taking the reader through a series of interactions and interviews with family. Charles tagging along with the inspector on his questioning of the family and their various motives. The real insight into the case come from Charles’s conversations with his father at his home. The old detective offering his insights into murder and murderers. From here the reader can gain a good perspective and a toehold as to the crooked solution to this puzzle.

Although I enjoyed the story (and the movie BTW), it did lag somewhat in its pacing. It was slow to unfold and even as the story’s climax was approaching the pace never really picked up. There really didn’t seem to be any sense of ‘urgency’ to this drama…

“Dad, what are murderers like?”

“Yes, I’ve never met a murderer who wasn’t vain … It’s their vanity that leads to their undoing, nine times out of ten. They may be frightened of being caught, but they can’t help strutting and boasting and usually they’re sure they’ve been far too cleaver to be caught.” He added: “And here’s another thing, a murderer wants to talk.”

Noir – Christopher Moore

noirWilliam Marrow – Harper Colling published April 2018

“A couple of onions short of a Gibson.” Funny… It’s the first book from this author that I’m reading.

Set in San Francisco in 1947, its Ramond Chandler meets J. A. Konrath with a humorous story of Sammy, a gimpy barman who falls for a blonde, Stilton (like the cheese) who’s built like a B-52 and wandered into the bar one dark and stormy night. Speaking of bombshells, we are introduced to a General who wants to perk up a weekend get-away in the woods with some working girls and Sammy’s shady boss Sal who has his fingers in many a shady pie, has just the idea…

Speaking of idea’s… Sammy get a helluva genius one when his Chinese friend and side-kick Eddie Moo Shoes take him for dinner at a place in the Chinatown back-alleys… If they could just get their hands on a snake and Sammy just knows a South African merchant marine from the bar who might just have the goods.

Things get a little out of hand with the snake crated up back at the bar… and now Sal needs to be put on ice. Next thing you know, the snake’s gone, Sal’s gone and the Cheese turns up missing!

Sammy recruits some friends, all neighborhood characters, and a search is underway… hijinks, including a high-speed car chase, ensue… Hold on to your aliens and G-men, its going to get bumpy!

She had the kind of legs that kept her butt from resting on her shoes – a size-eight dame in a size-six dress and every mug in the joint was rooting for the two sizes to make a break for it as they watched her wiggle in the door and shimmy onto a barstool with her back to the door. I raised an eyebrow at the South African merchant marine who’d been spinning out tales of his weird cargo at the other end of the bar while I polished a shot glass.

Murder House – James Patterson

murder-houseA Thriller Mystery published by Grand Central running 451 pages

A house with a history meets a cop with a past. Number 7 Ocean Dr in a quiet community of Long Island’s famous Hamptons has seen its fair share of murders. So what makes the deaths of a Hollywood talent scout and an attractive local young lady cause Detective Jenna Murphy to doubt the obvious.

This was a good book to read,.. I liked the split point of view, at times Patterson’s writing with Jenna’s first person narration, which is used for most of the book… but the timeline is broken up and Patterson uses the ‘Holden’ character, the antagonist as the first person narrator. He’s done this before as I recall him doing this in his novel Murder Games… the first person protagonist point of view and the first person antagonist narration. It’s a way of bringing the reader closer to the story.

The story starts off with a bang, literally, telling the tale of an incident some years prior to the ‘present time’. The characters here will be pivotal players as the main story commences. It seems that the evil that inhabits number 7 Ocean Dr is not necessarily confined to the house itself.

In the immediate ‘present time’ a new tenant leasing number 7, and his companion, are found murdered and suspicion falls immediately to a local handyman. But there is something not quite solid about the evidence and Detective Jenna Murphy starts expressing her concerns. She’s a hot shot detective recently dismissed from the New York City Police under scandal. Now she’s here in the Hamptons working for her uncle, and fighting the reverse snobbery of men in her uncle’s police force.

As she works to uncover the truth, the bodies start piling up. But soon the house’s past catches up to its present and in the twists as the climax approaches Jenna needs to expose the evil, or be added to the pile of corpses.

Aiden pushes himself off the wall, straightens himself.

Looks at me, just for a single moment, those darting eyes making contact with minne.

Come with me

Then he walks toward me. No sudden movement, just slowly approaching me.

Come with me

The boy with the scarecrow hair

Aiden places a hand over my gun hand, then carefully removes the revolver from it.

I look up at him, on my knees, helpless.

The Foreigner – Francie Lin

2311150Francie Lin hits a lot a major themes in this novel, love, family, honor, the past, the future, heaven and hell… but, is it a mystery? It’s a mystery in the sense that there are crimes and criminals and even a car chase down a highway in Taiwan. But as for mystery… I find it to be a mystery only in so far and there are things unknown, hidden things, but any story really takes time to unfold. You really don’t get the full picture of a character in a novel all up front… it rolls out over time.

And in The Foreigner, the ‘mysterious’ past is only ‘mysterious’ because it hasn’t unfolded yet.”

As the story unfolds, Emerson, an eldest son who is close to his immigrant Chinese mother in America is thrust into a journey back to his mother’s home in Taiwan after her death of natural causes. There he must find his younger brother who’s cut ties with them years before in order to settle the estate.

Upon finding his brother ‘Little P’, Emerson is drawn into a murky criminal underworld whose dealings are centered around their uncle’s karaoke bar called the Palace.

A keeper of a shared past. That’s how Emerson views his younger brother. Now that thier mother, his mother, has past away Little P is the only one left to validate his memories as he comes to see things.

Having recently lost a parent myself, this thought had a eureka moment for me as I now see my own younger siblings as sojourners traveling on towards the end of days. Siblings, they are the only ones who really knew you when…

Emerson finds Little P in business with Uncle, and two cousins named Poison and Big One. And while Emerson seeks to extricate his brother from the seedy noir world in which he is erythromycin much a Foreigner, he encounters two young women, Angel and Grace. With the help of a friend and compatriot of Uncle named Atticus Emerson hopes to learn some of the things about Little P’s life here in Taiwan that he brother chooses not to talk about.

Yes, it has occurred to me that there is more to the naming of these characters than meets the eye, and I wish I had a better recollection of To Kill A Mockingbird than I do because, although Emerson is about forty years old in this story, it’s really his coming of age story… he may just be the Scout in this journey of discovery.

And for a taste of that ‘noir’ style.. How’s this:

“Only the British would name a strip club The Admiralty,” she said, digging in her purse for the cover charge. “How is that erotic to anybody?”

The stout matron at the door turned out to be the bouncer and cashier both, and as she took our money, she rattled off a little spiel that was meant to be sexy and suggestive (“You look for fun tonigh’, huh? Our girls lot of fun”) but lost something in the bored, dry transaction of money for sex, especially when she and Angel scuffled over the amount of change owed. Inside the bar flanked the sides of a short catwalk illuminated by blue lights, with a pole at either end, and every once in a while a girl in a bikini and plastic heels would clamber onstage and do an indifferent little dance. Mostly, though, the dancers sat around the inside of the bar munching sandwiches and drinking Cokes. The place was not very crowed, which gave it an intimate air of soiled hopes.

Vengeance Is Mine – Mickey Spillane

0451203526I read this as the third story in the Mike Hammer Collection vol 1 – New American Library 2001. Originally copywrited E P Dutton & Co. in 1950.

 

Felons, fillies and fisticuffs, nobody every accused Mickey of writing a dull story, and this third Mike Hammer novel starts out right away with Mike being roused from a night of drinking with a corpse in the middle of a hotel room shot with Mike’s own gun. Police are looking at it as a suicide, but Mike, having seen an important detail, comes to the conclusion that its murder… and if it wasn’t Mike, who did it?

 

Well, the corpse was an Air Force captain Mike had met when he came home from oversees. After a night or reconnecting over several bars, he turns up dead. Who in New York would want a department store buyer in from Cincinnati dead… that’s where Mike’s trail starts. And that trails leads to a modeling agency, a trip to the Bowery, a lunch in Greenwich Village, and a tangled web of an extortion ring weaving its way through the city leaving a string of bodies that were often dismissed as suicides. Somehow, the blackmailers are always one step ahead as Mike makes his way through to the truth behind the apparent suicide that wasn’t which started this crusade.

 

Mickey’s third novel, just like the first two makes wonderful use of straight forward prose to paint a picture of New York in the late forties on a canvass using a shadowy pallet of grays. Against this backdrop he paints the bright colorful characters of Connie, Clyde, Juno and Anton as well as the ever present and faithful Velda and Pat.

 

I love reading the pure, unvarnished, pre-pc prose. There is a raw and visceral quality to the low-life’s, high hats and criminal middle managers that Mike encounters. And although most people are quick to tell you about his hard-nose ‘take no prisoners’ approach to personal conflicts whenever some mook invades his ‘personal-space’ I like the wa that Mickey lets you know that the ghosts of Mike’s past still haunt him. Mike really sees clearly the impact that his actions make and that he himself is not insulated from the violence around him. But he still chooses to clean up his city. A city where Mike feels for his fellow citizens.

 

One description that really stands out in this book is where Mike is taken to a section of town he hasn’t visited in a while… and if you like this, wait till her goes to the village…

   The Bowery, a street of people without faces. Pleading voices from the shadows and the shuffle of feet behind you. An occasional tug at your sleeve and more pleading that had professional despair in the tone. An occasional woman with clothes too tight giving you a long, steady stare that said she was available cheap. Saloon doors swung open so frequently they seemed like blinking lights. They were crowded too. The bars were lined with the leftovers of humanity keeping warm over a drink or nursing a steaming bowl of soup.

It had been a long time since I made the rounds down here. A cab swung into the curb and a guy in a tux with a redhead on his arm got out laughing. There was a scramble in his direction and the redhead handed out a mess of quarters then threw them all over the sidewalk to laugh all the louder when the dive came.

The guy thought it was funny too. He did the same thing with a fin, letting it blow out of his hand down the street. Connie said “See what I mean?”

I felt like kicking the bastard. “Yeah, I see.”

The Night Stalker – Robert Bryndza

night stalkerA police procedural mystery published by Bookouture, 2016 running 382 pages

This is the second novel in the DCI Erika Foster series by Robert Bryndza. During a sweltering summer in London Erika’s homicide group is dispatched to the home of a well-to-do physician where his naked corpse lies strapped in bed with a plastic bag over his head. As Erika’s team begins to investigate, elements of the crime lead senior leadership of the precinct to wrap up what evidence her team has and turn the case over to a group specializing in sex crime. But Erika has suspicions that the case isn’t a crime of passion… that this murder is homicide.

Once again Erika has issues with the senior supervisor Marsh and the rest of the ‘chain of command’ as well… as she is written she is a “direct, driven and brilliant officer who didn’t suffer fools” and this story remains true to that. But she is also shown to be blunt, stubborn and won’t tolerate suck-ups.

In one exchange Marsh tells her not to pursue a person he knows had an alibi for the initial murder being investigated. But Erika keeps pushing him on that and tells him, “You know this kind of thing doesn’t work with me. Keep me in the dark and I’ll find a light switch”

And she also has an issue dealing with people in general. She puts forth her theory of solving crime “Often you have to piss people off to get to the truth,” and at the rate that Erika pisses off people in this novel, she should be up to her ass in truth.

As the heat wave draws on, the bodies stack up. From the initial physician, to a talk-show host, then an author of sadistic fiction… Erika continues to stubbornly pursue the Night Owl regardless of whose toes she’s trampling on.