Monday, July 6, 2015

The Famous Five: 2015 Ngaio Marsh Award shortlist announced


FIVE OUTSTANDING novels full of mystery and intrigue have been announced as the shortlist for the 2015 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel, which will be presented at an event held in association with WORD Christchurch in late September.

“The five books on this year’s shortlist are a superb showcase of New Zealand writing talent,” says Judging Convenor Craig Sisterson. “A few years ago it was common to question the quality of crime writing in this country, but these authors clearly demonstrate that our tales and our writers stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the best in the world. The shortlist contains a diverse range of styles and stories, but each book melds page-turning entertainment with an undercurrent of deeper issues that go the very heart of our communities and society.”

After much deliberation, the international judging panel has selected the following five finalists:
  •          FIVE MINUTES ALONE by Paul Cleave (Penguin NZ)
  •          THE PETTICOAT MEN by Barbara Ewing (Head of Zeus)
  •          SWIMMING IN THE DARK by Paddy Richardson (Upstart Press)
  •          THE CHILDREN’S POND by Tina Shaw (Pointer Press)
  •          FALLOUT by Paul Thomas (Upstart Press)

The judges praised Cleave’s FIVE MINUTES ALONE as “gritty and thoroughly absorbing”, a “one-sitting” novel that “evokes complex feelings regarding retribution and morality”. Ewing’s THE PETTICOAT MEN is “an immaculately researched” take on a real-life 1870s event that is “spirited, full of strong characters” and “a joy to read”.  The panel hailed SWIMMING IN THE DARK as “an elegantly delivered, disturbing, and ultimately very human tale” that showcased Richardson’s talent for “damaged characters and tackling grey areas”. Tina Shaw authors a “mesmerising” character study in THE CHILDREN’S POND, using deft and spare language to craft a tale with a sublime sense of both place and menace that is “a delight to read”. Paul Thomas’s FALLOUT is “compelling and character-rich”, a “superb continuation” of the Ihaka series; “excellent writing… funny, but also serious.”

The Ngaio Marsh Award is made annually for the best crime, mystery, or thriller novel written by a New Zealand citizen or resident. This year’s winner will receive the Ngaio Marsh Award trophy, a set of Dame Ngaio’s novels courtesy of her publisher HarperCollins, and a cash prize provided by WORD Christchurch.

The Award’s namesake, Dame Ngaio Marsh, was a Christchurch mystery writer and theatre director renowned worldwide as one of the four “Queens of Crime” of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. More than thirty years after her death her books remain in print and beloved by many generations of readers. The Ngaio Marsh Award was established in 2010 with the blessing of Dame Ngaio’s closest living relative, John Dacres-Manning.

For more information on the Ngaio Marsh Award, go to www.facebook.com/NgaioMarshAward  or email ngaiomarshaward@gmail.com, or to contact the Judging Convenor directly: craigsisterson@hotmail.com  

USA Crime Fiction Challenge: 36 states down, 15 to go


Further to my post from Saturday, I have now gone through my books read and reviewed to discover I have ticked off 36 of the 51 regions covered by the USA Fiction Challenge (50 states + District of Columbia).

That leaves fifteen states still to read (along with some substitutions for some already-reviewed states, to cut-down on author double-ups, eg Lee Child, CJ Box, Lisa Gardner and others appearing more than once). Doing some research for books set in the likes of Vermont and Delaware has been quite fun, and I've now tabbed the following crime novels onto my to-read list, to finish off the USA Fiction Challenge.

I'm pretty excited about the list below - not only was it fun to research and discover crime fiction set in some more remote or rural states, but I'm also very much looking forward to reading many of these authors, including several who have long-running series and.or who I've heard great things about but will be new-to-me (eg Dana Stabenow, JA Jance, David Baldacci, Nevada Barr, Daniel Woodrell, William Bernhardt).

  1. ALASKA: Bad Blood by Dana Stabenow (2013): when a young villager is found dead and the prime suspect from a rival tribe disappears, neither tribe will talk to Sgt Jim Chopin, who calls in Kate Shugak when a second murder occurs. 
  2. ARIZONA: Desert Heat by JA Jance (1993): the first in the Joanna Brady series, introducing the wife of an Arizona lawman running for Cochise County sheriff who ends up battling bad guys herself when her husband is shot.
  3. ARKANSAS: Shakespeare's Landlord by Charlaine Harris (1996): Lily Bard is recovering from a violent past in small-town Arkansas, working as a housecleaner, when she witnesses a murder that strips away her anonymity, brings her unwanted attention, but also has her coming alive again.
  4. DELAWARE: Long Hill Home by Kathryn Pincus (2015): a successful lawyer is attacked while out on a run, and she, a lonely teenager who comes to her aid only to be accused of the crime, and a pregnant illegal immigrant witness all face great adversity as the case unfolds. 
  5. IOWA: Smithereens by Susan Taylor Chehak (1995): Sixteen-year-old May Caldwell has a dull life in Linwood, Iowa until her 'foster sister' Frankie shows up. Together they seduce an older man and head on a tumultuous trail that leads to murder. Hammett Prize Nominee. 
  6. MARYLAND: Every Secret Thing by Laura Lippman (2003): two 11-year-old girls are banished from a neighbourhood party and stumble across an infant in a stroller. Seven years later they're released from juvenile detention, three families destroyed by the crime that happened that day. Then another child disappears under freakishly similar circumstances. Anthony Award winner. 
  7. MISSOURI: Tomato Red by Daniel Woodrell (1998): Jamalee and Jason are siblings with dreams of escaping the Ozark valley where they are the "lowest scum in town", so they recruit a good-natured drifter ex-con as the muscle for their schemes. Hammett Prize Nominee.
  8. NEVADA: Murder Unleashed by Rita Mae Brown (2011): a former big city banker is adjusting to life on a ranch outside Reno with her gregarious great-Aunt and a German Shepherd. When they start helping with a community project, they find themselves up against corruption and murder.
  9. NORTH DAKOTA: Gridlock by Senator Byron L Dorgan and David Hadberg (2013): two Iranian agents buy a computer virus off the Russians to shut down the US power grid and North Dakota sheriff Nate Osborne has to step up when the international crisis hits his home state.
  10. OKLAHOMA: Death Row by William Bernhardt (2003): Oklahoma attorney Ben Kincaid defended a mild-mannered man accused of slaughtering an entire family. Now, as the execution date approaches, the star prosecution recants to Kincaid, only to be found dead the next day from an apparent suicide. Kincaid must discover what is really going on before it's too late. 
  11. OREGON: Judgement Calls by Alafair Burke (2003): the first Samantha Kincaid novel sees the Portland Deputy DA gunning for attempted murder after a teenager is brutally attacked, but as she prepares for the case she uncovers a dangerous trail leading to a high-profile death penalty case, underage sex ring, and a possible serial killer. 
  12. UTAH: The Rope by Nevada Barr (2012): a prequel novel to the popular Anna Pigeon series, showing how Anna moved from New York to take a seasonal position in Glen Canyon, starting her career in the National Park Service following the death of her husband. Hiking around Lake Powell, Anna literally falls into a mystery that she becomes determined to solve, sparking her new career.
  13. VERMONT: Cloudland by Joseph Olshan (2012): former hotshot reporter Catherine Winslow has retreated to rural Vermont. Out walking in the snow, she finds a body, and soon realises a serial killer is reenacting scenes from an unfinished Wilkie Collins novel missing from her personal library.
  14. WEST VIRGINIA: Zero Day by David Baldacci (2011): John Puller is the US military's top investigator, so when a family with military connections is brutally murdered in coal country, he's sent by the Pentagon to help the local homicide cops, only to discover there is much more to the case. 
  15. WISCONSIN: Dead Angler by Victoria Houston (2000): In Northwoods, fishing is a way of life. But when Doc Osborne catches more than he bargained for, he winds up in the middle of a murder mystery, and only Chief of Police Lew Ferris can get him out of it. 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Crisis of Conscience

Engineer Paul Hardisty, a veteran of working in developing nations, has set his first thriller in Yemen. It’s a novel which raises plenty of questions about real-life, he tells Craig Sisterson. 

Paul Hardisty has spent his entire globetrotting career writing down facts - in engineering reports, scientific articles, textbooks - but it wasn't until he imagined a story that he extracted the greatest truths from his experiences. "The irony, of course," says Hardisty, "is that in fiction, you can take a made-up story, strip away the bullshit, and tell the truth."

The story, infused with a deeper truth, is The Abrupt Physics Of Dying, a literary thriller that announced Hardisty as a novelist, and recently earned the director of CSIRO, Australia's national science body, a long-listing for the prestigious John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger in Britain. In his writing, Hardisty strips away the dilution of authenticity, the fraying around the edges of truth that, he says, we all do a little bit of each day. ... CONTINUE READING HERE

This feature was first published in the Saturday 4 July 2015 issue of Canvas magazine, the lifestyle insert for the popular Weekend Herald newspaper in New Zealand. 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Independence Day: State by State Crime Reading

Today is a very important day for all my friends in the United States - the country I've spent by far the most time in outside of New Zealand - as fireworks and outdoor cooking and parties will mark the Fourth of July; Independence Day.

I've had the pleasure of celebrating Independence Day in a variety of ways during my four summers spent in the United States, but since I'm now based in London, I thought I'd give a nod to this great place full of great people by officially joining the USA Fiction Challenge.

The idea of the challenge is to read your way across America, all 50 states (or 51, if you choose to include the District of Columbia). It is a challenge that can be done in a year, or over time. I've decided to concentrate on crime fiction I've read or will read from the different states (setting or author location). Obviously states like California, New York, and Florida give huge amounts of options, with many terrific crime writers setting their books there, or being from there. Others will be more difficult.

Rather than starting afresh, I will be using crime novels I have already read and reviewed as part of this challenge, and then trying to 'fill in the gaps' moving forward. In each case I'll pick one great book/author to represent a state, but I may list other cool crime titles for that state as recommended reads too. A rule I'm considering for myself: no author double-ups as the main title for a state (ie can't use James Lee Burke for Louisiana, Texas, and Montana, despite him writing terrific books set in each state). But we'll see how I go. I might use some double-ups to start with, until I can replace one book with a different author.

You can sign up for the USA Fiction Challenge yourself here. I think it's a great idea to encourage us to read other, new-to-you authors, and to explore crime fiction set in a variety of places (think Global Reading Challenge: the US edition). Having travelled a lot in the United States, I often say to friends that every state is different, like it's own country in a way, and you can get amazing diversity exploring that great land. So we'll be experiencing that through the reading challenge too.

CRAIG'S USA CRIME FICTION CHALLENGE

ALABAMA: The Hundredth Man by Jack Kerley (2005): Carson Ryder, a young Mobile detective with uncanny investigative skills, forms a special unit to solve psychotic crimes, while keeping hidden his secret weapon for understanding the worst criminals: his serial killer brother. Read and to be reviewed. 

ALASKA: Bad Blood by Dana Stabenow (2013): when a young villager is found dead and the prime suspect from a rival tribe disappears, neither tribe will talk to Sgt Jim Chopin, who calls in Kate Shugak when a second murder occurs. To be read. 

ARIZONA: Desert Heat by JA Jance (1993): the first in the Joanna Brady series, introducing the wife of an Arizona lawman running for Cochise County sheriff who ends up battling bad guys herself when her husband is shot. To be read. 

ARKANSAS: Shakespeare's Landlord by Charlaine Harris (1996): Lily Bard is recovering from a violent past in small-town Arkansas, working as a housecleaner, when she witnesses a murder that strips away her anonymity, brings her unwanted attention, but also has her coming alive again. To be read. 

CALIFORNIA: The Black Box by Michael Connelly (2012): Twenty years after riots tore Los Angeles apart, Harry Bosch finds himself revisiting past scars (his city’s and his own) as he revisits the murder of a young Scandinavian journalist, a crime scene he had to abandon as the city was aflame. Read review here. 

COLORADO: Blood Runs Cold by Alex Barclay (2008): Ren Bryce investigates the puzzling murder of a fellow FBI agent amongst the snow-covered ski-bunny scenery of Breckenridge, clashing with local law enforcement while she hides her own past. Read review here.

CONNECTICUT: The Accident by Linwood Barclay (2011): under-pressure contractor Glen's life goes from bad to worse when his wife is killed in a DUI the police blame on her. As he tries to protect his daughter, Glen begins to suspect very sinister things are going on in his small Connecticut town. Snippet review here, full review to follow. 

DELAWARE: Long Hill Home by Kathryn Pincus (2015): a successful lawyer is attacked as she runs along the Brandywine River, and she, a lonely teenager who comes to her aid only to be accused of the crime, and a pregnant illegal immigrant witness all face great adversity as the case unfolds. To be read

DISTRICT of COLUMBIA: The Night Crew by Brian Haig (2015): an army lawyer is ordered to defend a soldier accused of torturing enemy prisoners abroad. As he reluctantly prepares for trial, he begins to wonder whether she's being scapegoated by powerful people. Read review here. 

FLORIDA: Don't Lose Her by Jonathon King (2015): When a pregnant federal judge is abducted, former Philly cop turned South Florida recluse Max Freeman pursues an eccentric gang deep into a hidden world he knows better than most: the shadowy waterways of the Everglades. Read review here.

GEORGIA: Cop Town by Karin Slaughter (2014): while a brutal killing and furious manhunt consumes Atlanta in 1974, female cops Kate Murphy and Maggie Lawson are sidelined by their colleagues and pursue their own lines of investigation in a bigoted system and city. CWA Steel Dagger finalist. To be reviewed. 

HAWAII: Mortal Remains by Kathy Reichs (2010): the twelfth in the Tempe Brennan series sees the forensic anthropologist following a puzzling trail to Hawaii after a body is discovered in a Canadian lake. The victim of an autoerotic effort gone wrong is identified as a man who apparently died in Vietnam forty years before. Bodies in Carolina and Hawaii add to the intrigue and muddy the waters. Read review here.

IDAHO: Blue Heaven by CJ Box (2010): an absorbing tale of two frightened children who witness a murder and are then sheltered by an elderly rancher when they're hunted by corrupt cops who are leading the search party. Edgar Award winner. Read review here.

ILLINOIS: The Third Rail by Michael Harvey (2010): a woman is shot waiting for a train. Another is shot an hour later. Two hours later a church suffers a chemical weapons attack. Former cop Michael Kelly is tasked by the Chicago mayor and the FBI with putting an end to the bad guys, but as he investigates those around him and the city itself are put in even greater danger. To be reviewed.  

INDIANA (author): The Ridge by Michael Koryta (2011): When the keeper of an eccentric local landmark is found dead, then strange occurrences occur, local deputy Kevin Kimble wonders whether the incidents are connected to his own horror. Meanwhile Audrey Clark is moving her big cat sanctuary to land near the lighthouse; sixty seven tigers, lions, leopards, and one legendary black panther. But the cats don't seem happy about their new home, and begin to grow increasingly restless. To be reviewed. (note: possibly to be replaced by David Levien's Thirteen Million Dollar Pop (Indiana setting) - as yet unread)

IOWA: Smithereens by Susan Taylor Chehak (1995): Sixteen-year-old May Caldwell has a dull life in Linwood, Iowa until her 'foster sister' Frankie shows up. Together they seduce an older man and head on a tumultuous trail that leads to murder. Hammett Prize Nominee. To be read. 

KANSAS: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (2009): Libby Day has drifted for 20 years after surviving the notorious "Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas". Running out of money, she accepts a paid appearance before true crime fans who believe the man convicted, her brother, is innocent. Read review here. 

KENTUCKY: Buried Alive by Jack Kerley (2010): the seventh instalment in the outstanding Carson Ryder series sees the Alabama detective travel to rural Kentucky for a vacation only to stumble across a series of sadistic killings. Snippet review here, fuller review to follow. 

LOUISIANA: Purple Cane Road by James Lee Burke (2000): an elegant and enthralling tale from perhaps the best in the business. Dave Robicheaux is plunged into his most personal and painful case yet as he learns his mother was a hooker who died at the hands of corrupt cops. Nefarious forces align against Clete and Dave, as he confronts past and present evil. To be reviewed. 

MAINE: A Song of Shadows by John Connolly (2015): Charlie Parker is recovering in small-town coastal Maine from a near-fatal shooting when he tries to befriend a troubled woman and her daughter, and gets caught up in a dangerous conspiracy with its roots back in Nazi concentration camps. To be reviewed. 

MARYLAND: Every Secret Thing by Laura Lippman (2003): two 11-year-old girls are banished from a party in a Baltimore neighbourhood and stumble across an infant in a stroller. Seven years later they're released from juvenile detention, three families destroyed by the crime that happened that day. Then another child disappears under freakishly similar circumstances. Anthony Award winner. To be read. 

MASSACHUSETTS: Catch Me by Lisa Gardner (2012): Boston PD detective DD Warren is investigating the killing of paedophiles when a young woman asks her to solve her own murder: the woman is convinced she'll be killed soon following the deaths of two childhood friends. Read review here. (note: potentially to be replaced by Tess Gerritsen's The Silent Girl, which is read not yet reviewed)

MICHIGAN: Misery Bay by Steve Hamilton (2012): the return of former city cop Alex McKnight who is asked by his nemesis to investigate the hanging suicide of a young man in the frozen Michigan wilderness. Read review here.

MINNESOTA: Ashes to Ashes by Tami Hoag (1999): when a serial killer ritualistically kills several women in the Minnesota woods, an FBI agent turned victim advocate is forced to work with an ace FBI profiler she has a troubled history with in order to prevent more deaths. To be reviewed. 

MISSISSIPPI: One Night in Mississippi by Craig Shreve (2015): a broken man haunted by the lynching of his brother helps track down the killers fifty years later when the US Dept of Justice reopens old cases. Review to be published. 

MISSOURI: Tomato Red by Daniel Woodrell (1998): Jamalee and Jason are siblings with dreams of escaping the Ozark valley where they are the "lowest scum in town", so they recruit a good-natured drifter ex-con as the muscle for their schemes. Hammett Prize Nominee. To be read and reviewed. 

MONTANA: Back of Beyond by CJ Box (2011): maverick cop and recovering alcoholic Cody Hoyt's life goes further off-the-rails when his AA sponsor is found burned to death in a cabin and he gets suspended after shooting the county coroner at a botched stakeout. Then he tracks a killer to a motley group of tourists on a horse trek through remote Yellowstone, a trip his own estranged son is on. Read review here.

NEBRASKA: A Wanted Man by Lee Child (2012): Jack Reacher is picked up hitch-hiking in rural Nebraska by three strangers, only to realise something bad is going on and maybe they just want him as a decoy for the police roadblocks. Read review here

NEVADA: Murder Unleashed by Rita Mae Brown (2011): former New York City banker is adjusting to life on a ranch outside Reno with her gregarious great-Aunt and a German Shepherd. When they start helping with a community project, they find themselves up against corruption and murder. To be read.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: Crash & Burn by Lisa Gardner (2015): A woman wakes following a violent crash, confused, wondering where her daughter is. A stranger says he’s her husband, there's no child, and concussions have altered her personality. While the police investigate, the woman tries to work out what's really going on and why she feels she’s in grave danger. Read and to be reviewed. 

NEW JERSEY: Caught by Harlan Coben (2010): a small town is rocked when the 17-year-old high school lacrosse captain disappears, and a social worker is outed as a sexual predator on an ambitious reporter's 'gotcha' TV show. When evidence is thrown out, the reporter begins to question herself and those around her, and starts finding skeletons in many closets. Read review here. 

NEW MEXICO: A Thief of Time by Tony Hillerman (1988): the discovery of two corpses at an ancient burial site spurs Navajo Tribal policemen Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee to plunge into the past to unearth an astonishing truth and a cold-hearted killer.  Macavity Award winner; Edgar finalist. Read review here. 

NEW YORK: City of Fear by Alafair Burke (2008): The all-too-realistic case of a young woman found stabbed after an alcohol and drug-fuelled night in a NYC hotspot later becomes much more complicated when NYPD Detective Hatcher uncovers echoes with three largely-forgotten cold cases. To be reviewed. 

NORTH CAROLINA: The Last Child by John Hart (2009): a thirteen-year-old boy hunts for his missing sister in a small-town full of secrets in this bleakly magnificent Edgar Award-winning crime novel. Read review here.

NORTH DAKOTA: Gridlock by Senator Byron L Dorgan and David Hadberg (2013): two Iranian agents buy a deadly computer virus off the Russians to shut down the US power grid and North Dakota sheriff Nate Osborne has to step up when the international crisis centres on his home state. To be read. 

OHIO: The Silent Hour by Michael Koryta (2009): Cleveland-based private eye Lincoln Perry is asked by a convicted killer to solve the twelve-year-old disappearance of the founder of a unique parolee programme. Edgar-nominated author. Read review here.

OKLAHOMA: Death Row by William Bernhardt (2003): Oklahoma attorney Ben Kincaid put his reputation on the line when he defended a mild-mannered man accused of slaughtering a family. Now, as the execution date approaches, the star prosecution recants to Kincaid, only to be found dead the next day from an apparent suicide. Kincaid must discover what is really going on before it's too late. To be read. 

OREGON: Judgement Calls by Alafair Burke (2003): the first Samantha Kincaid novel sees the Portland Deputy DA guns for attempted murder after a teenager is brutally attacked, but as she prepares for the case she uncovers a dangerous trail leading to a high-profile death penalty case, underage sex ring, and a possible serial killer. To be read. (note: will switch out for Greg Rucka title if keep Alafair Burke for NYC). 

PENNSYLVANIA: Death Falls by Todd Ritter (2015): Forty years after his brother disappeared on the night of the moon landing, presumed drowned, famed author Eric Olmstead returns to his small Pennsylvania hometown to mourn his mother, only to find she'd been searching for a sinister truth. Teaming up with the daughter of the original Police Chief, Eric tries to find out what really happened. Read review here.

RHODE ISLAND: An American Killing by Mary-Ann Tirone Smith (1998): Denise Burke is a best-selling true crime novelist cheating on her husband with a Rhode Island congressman, who asks her to investigate an old murder in his district, then urges her to drop it, then dies suspiciously. Another close-to-home death has Denise realising some powerful people want her to back off. Read and to be reviewed. 

SOUTH CAROLINA: Seizure by Kathy and Brendan Reichs (2011): the 'Virals', a young crime-solving pack led by Tory Brennan, search for the treasure of she-pirate Ann Bonney to help save the Loggerhead Island Research Institute, the place that brought them together when they were infected by a rare strain of canine parvovirus. Young adult thriller. Read and to be reviewed. 

SOUTH DAKOTA: 61 Hours by Lee Child (2010): Jack Reacher finds himself marooned in snow-swept Bolton, South Dakota after a bus crash, protecting a witness from a hit man in a small town hemmed in by a gigantic prison and a violent gang of bikers. Read review here. 

TENNESSEE: Carved in Bone by Jefferson Bass (2006): Dr Bill Brockton is surrounded by death at 'the Body Farm', but now must help solve a baffling puzzle in a remote mountain community that could reopen old wounds. To be reviewed. 

TEXAS: Playing Dead by Julie Heaberlin (2012): returning to Texas for her beloved father's funeral, a woman receives a letter saying she was kidnapped from her real mother as a child, sending her on a perilous road of secrets and discoveries. Snippet review here, fuller review to follow. 

UTAH: The Rope by Nevada Barr (2012): a prequel novel to the popular Anna Pigeon series, showing how Anna moved from New York to take a seasonal position in Glen Canyon, starting her career in the National Park Service following the death of her husband. Hiking around Lake Powell, Anna literally falls into a mystery that she becomes determined to solve, sparking her new career. To be read. 

VERMONT: Cloudland by Joseph Olshan (2012): former hotshot reporter Catherine Winslow has retreated to rural Vermont. Out walking in the snow, she finds a body, and soon realises a serial killer is reenacting scenes from an unfinished Wilkie Collins novel missing from her personal library. To be read. 

VIRGINIA: Edge by Jeffrey Deaver (2010): a high-level government bodyguard is assigned to shepherd (protect) a DC cop and his family in a cat-and-mouse game with a notorious 'lifter', an assassin who'll do whatever it takes to get the information he wants. Read review here.

WASHINGTON: Past Crimes by Glen Erik Hamilton (2015): an outstanding debut thriller where an Army Ranger from a troubled childhood returns home to Seattle to find his estranged granddad shot and his past as a teenage thief coming back to haunt him. To be reviewed. 

WEST VIRGINIA: Zero Day by David Baldacci (2011): John Puller is the top investigator in the US military's CID, so when a family with military connections is brutally murdered in West Virginia coal country, he's sent by the Pentagon to help local homicide cops, only to discover there is much more to the case. To be read. 

WISCONSIN: Dead Angler by Victoria Houston (2000): In Northwoods, fishing is a way of life and when the muskies are biting, life couldn't be better. But when Doc Osborne catches more than he bargained for, he winds up in the middle of a murder mystery, and only Chief of Police Lew Ferris can get him out of it. To be read/finished. 

WYOMING: Cold Wind by CJ Box (2011): the 11th Joe Pickett novel sees the Wyoming game warden conflicted as he tries to keep his much-hated mother-in-law from prison as he investigates who murdered her rich fifth husband and strung him up from a wind turbine. Read review here.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Review: BEYOND THE RAGE by Michael J Malone

BEYOND THE RAGE by Michael J Malone (Saraband, 2015)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

Glaswegian author Michael J. Malone's prose is onyx; unique and glittering in its darkness. While journalism is a common background for crime writers, Malone has 200 published poems to his name, and that rare talent for language bleeds into his storytelling in this noir-ish tale.

Kenny O'Neill is both hero and villain; a likeable criminal at the core of this exquisite thriller. A Glaswegian gangster capable of brutality, but with a degree of heart and (sort-of) moral compass, whose rage powers a fascinating thrill-ride into the underbelly of Scotland.

Kenny has every right to be angry. His father abandoned him after his mother's suicide, yet is now reaching out years later, while at the same time his girlfriend - a high-class hooker - has been viciously attacked. Balancing white knight and black hat, Kenny is driven to try to solve the mysteries of the past and the present, quick-stepping through a minefield of dangers as he seeks answers, and vengeance.

Malone does a tremendous job at crafting a novel with a dark heart, yet peppered with moments of humour and plenty of things that can make readers grin, even laugh. Kenny is Tony Soprano-esque, in that he's a bad guy, but also incredibly fascinating, layered, and you just can't help but root for him on his quest. There's an intriguing cast of characters that orbit around Kenny's life too, from the high to the low in Glaswegian society, wannabe tough-guys to aging mentors and dangerous monied men. Malone infuses them all with some nuance - there are no cardboard cut-outs or caricatures here. People want things, for very human reasons.

BEYOND THE RAGE has a twisting plotline that will thrill crime fans, keeping the reader guessing as events unfold, while delivering depth of character and stylish prose that elevates it to the higher echelons of the genre. Just a damned good story. Dark, absorbing, filled with ferocity and feeling.

Delightful seems a bizarre word to use for such a noir tale, full of unsympathetic people, but delighted I was as I was carried along by Malone's craftsmanship, the words crackling with intensity, pages filled with spark.

A violent and visceral read from a master storyteller. Highly recommended.