Author Archives: Keith West

When a Murder is Welcome

A Welcome Murder
Robin Yocum
Seventh Street Books
Trade Paperback $15.99 US/$17.99 CAN
Ebook $9.99 US/$11.99 CAN

Robin Yocum’s A Brillian Death was probably my favorite book last year.  He returns with another tale of murder in set in a rustbelt Ohio town.  A Brilliant Death was a coming of age story wrapped in a murder mystery.  As such, the profanity and sexual content were pretty minimal; its content would not be inappropriate for younger readers.  This one deals with what happens when the dreams of youth and high school turn to disappointment and death.  The content in A Welcome Murder is much more raw than that of A Brilliant Death and may not be appropriate for readers under twenty-one eighteen.

The books are both well written, with compelling stories that knocked all other reading commitments aside, but they are told in such different ways that I was quite impressed with Yocum’s versatility and range.  Permit me to elaborate. Continue reading

Be Careful or You’ll Get Snatched

Snatched
Gregory Mcdonald
in Snatch
Hard Case Crime
Trade Paper $12.95 US $17.50 CAN
ebook $7.99

Snatched is the first of two kidnapping novels by the late Gregory Mcdonald in the latest omnibus from Hard Case Crime, Snatch.

It’s a…What’s that?…No, that’s not what the book is about.  Try to keep your mind out of the gutter….Yes, I have to admit you do have a point.  I can see how putting a picture of a voluptuous redhead wearing only a sheet and the corner of a newspaper on the cover of a book entitled Snatch might be a bit misleading…May I continue?…Thank you.

As I was saying…what was I saying?  Oh, yes.  This isn’t a dark noir novel, but it’s not exactly a light humorous novel either.  Here’s the setup. Continue reading

Trouble in Brighton

latewhitsuncoverLate Whitsun
Jasper Kent
paperback $9.99
ebook $2.99

I really liked the first three volumes of Jasper Kent’s The Danilov Quintet, which I consider to be a  thinking man’s vampire hunter. The last two volumes haven’t been published in the US, so I’ve not read them yet.  Emphasis on “yet”.  You can read my reviews here, here, and here.

With Late Whitsun, Kent turns his attention to the historical mystery.  Set in Brighton in 1938, the novel concerns Charlie Woolf.  He’s a sometimes private investigator who earns a meager living by making sketches for the tourists.

When he’s approached by his former partner, Alan O’Connor, and asked to act as a courier, it’s a chance to earn some easy money.  All he has to do is take an envelope to London and give it to a man by a certain bench in a certain park at a certain time.

Of course it’s not that easy.  The envelope contains incriminating photos.  The man he meets is wearing a gas mask.  And when Charlie returns home, there’s a surprise waiting for him in his apartment. Continue reading

Moonchasers by Ed Gorman

moonchasers-ebookMoonchasers and Other Stories
Ed Gorman
ebook $3.99

This isn’t a review of the whole book, just the short novel that’s the title story. I’ll read the rest of the stories throughout the autumn and into the Christmas holidays. We lost Ed Gorman this past weekend, or at least that’s when the news of his passing became public. As of this writing, I’ve not seen formal obituary with the exact date of death.

I’ve had a print copy of Moonchasers for years, but I’ve only read a few of the stories in it and none recently.  So after hearing of Ed’s passing, I wanted to read some of his work.  I chose Moonchasers because I had always wanted to read it.  It was the perfect story for the mood I was in.  Continue reading

RIP, Ed Gorman

ed-gormanI’ve just learned that Ed Gorman has passed away.  Ed had been battling cancer for quite some time.  His Sam McCain series of detective novels presented a view of the 1950s small town America that were an homage to the pulp detective novels of the period.  There are a couple I haven’t gotten to yet.  He also wrote horror novels under the name of Daniel Ransom and westerns under his own name.

As much as I enjoy his novels, it was at shorter lengths that I really got the most from his work.  It’s been long enough now that my memory is fuzzy, but I think the first book of his I read was the paperback collection The Dark Fantastic. Containing some of his dark fantasy and horror tales, Ed included an introduction in which he listed some of his influences when he was growing up.  Among the list of writers I also admired was Henry Kuttner, who has remained my favorite.  I knew when I read that Kuttner had influenced Gorman that I was going to like Gorman.  I was right and have been reading him ever since.  The Dark Fantastic is long out of print, but you can still pick up copies fairly cheaply online.  Check it, or any of Ed’s other books, out.

I never had the pleasure of meeting him, although he commented on one of my posts and said it was well written.  I was on cloud nine for days after that.  Ed will be missed.  I’m going to read some of his work later today.  Bill Crider has published this tribute.

Take a Trip with Mr. Finn

the-prison-guards-sonThe Prison Guard’s Son
Trace Conger
Paperback $12.95
Ebook $4.99

I’d like to thank Trace Conger for sending me the review copy of The Prison Guard’s Son.  I’ve been hooked on the Mr. Finn novels since I read the first one.  That was The Shadow Broker, which won a Shamus Award.  (Read my review here.)

While the first two books dealt with aspects of unlicensed PI Finn Harding’s family, this one takes him a bit farther afield.  Set approximately one year after the events in Scar Tissue (review here), Finn is hired by a retired prison guard whose eight year old son was murdered two twelve year olds after they took him  from a mall.  Although tried as adults, the killers were sent to a juvenile facility and released when they turned 18.  For some reason they were put in the federal witness protection program.

Now the grieving father wants Finn to find them.  Not because he intends to offer forgiveness, either.  Just the opposite.  He wants to kill them. Continue reading

Death in the Library

the-paris-librarianThe Paris Librarian
Mark Pryor
Seventh Street Books
Trade Paper $15.95
Ebook $9.99

I’d like to thank Seventh Street Books for sending me a copy of The Paris Librarian. It’s been out for about a month now. I finished the book about the time it was released, and things have just slowed down enough to write the review. The reviews you’ve seen in the past month were for things I’d finished before this one. Hopefully things will settle down for a bit, and I can be more productive.

This is the sixth installment in the Hugo Marston series.  I’ve not read any of the previous books.  Seventh Street has sent me review copies, but I’d not been able to work any of them in until now.  I’m going to go back and read some of them. Continue reading

Killing The Kind Worth Killing

kind worth killing 2The Kind Worth Killing
Peter Swanson
William Morrow
paperback $9.99
ebook $14.99
audio

I was in the mood for a thriller and this one caught my eye. I think it was the blurb about four unreliable narrators that did the trick, although the one about three plots twists didn’t hurt.  (No, it wasn’t the nubile young woman silhouetted in the skimpy negligee. But that didn’t hurt.)

One of the blurbs compares the book to the work of Alfred Hitchcock, and I think that’s a fair comparison.  Other than the twist on the first page of the second part, which would be darn hard to pull off in a visual medium, this novel has all the elements of a Hitchcock thriller. Continue reading

Trouble in Lamar County

The Rock HoleThe Rock Hole
Poisoned Pen Press
Reavis Z. Wortham
paperback $14.95
ebook $0.99
audio $3.49

The Rock Hole is one of those books in which Literature goes slumming and dresses up in genre drag.  Often the results, while they may be beloved by the critics, are only embarrassing.  But then an author comes along and shows the rest of the world how it’s done.  More on this in a bit.

Young Top Parker comes to live with his grandparents in rural Lamar County, Texas, in 1964.  Top’s grandfather Ned is the constable and farmer.  When he gets there, someone is mutilating animals.  Ned fears it’s only a rehearsal for killing a person, and he’s got reason to believe that person will be a child.  What he doesn’t realize is that the killer has Top in his sights. Continue reading

A Brilliant Death is a Brilliant Book

A Brilliant DeathA Brilliant Death
Robin Yocum
Seventh Street Books
Trade Paper $15.95 US/$17.00 CAN
ebook $9.99

First I’d like to thank Seventh Street Books for the review copy of A Brilliant Death.  This book reached out, grabbed me, and pulled me in like no book has done in a long time.  Robin Yocum has just been added to my Read-Anything-He-Writes-Including-His-Grocery-List List.  A Brilliant Death catapulted me into a time and place and made me feel like I was there.

The narrator is Mitch Malone, and his best friend is Travis Baron.  They’re high school students in the town of Brilliant Ohio in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  Brilliant is a real places, Mr. Yocum’s hometown in fact.  That’s proably a main reason the town described in the book seems so real.

Travis’s mother Amanda died when he was a baby, killed when a barge sunk a riverboat she and her lover were on in the middle of the night.  At least, that’s the story everyone believes.

Travis’s father, Big Frank, is a long haul trucker who was on the road the night his wife died.  He doesn’t have much time for his son, unless it’s to beat him.  So not surprisingly, Travis spends a lot of time at Mitch’s house.

Also not surprising is the desire Travis has to know more about his mother.  He can’t help but overhear the stories people in town tell about how she died.  It doesn’t help that her body was never found, nor was the body of her lover.  And since no one turned up missing in the area, it’s widely believed that he managed to swim to shore and is still alive.

What is surprising are some of the things Travis learns about his mother.  Not everything everyone “knows” turns out to be true.

Yocum does a great job of peeling the layers of the mystery away, like digging through the layers of an paleontology dig.  There are plenty of twists in this one, each one believeable and completely logical.  Mitch and Travis come across as thoroughly real people.  They each have their motivations and quirks.  The amount of detail is especially well handled, with things you think are there just for background turning out to be important.  Pay close attention to the memorial service in Chapter 2.  Most of what follows is flashback, and there are some details that are significant in that chapter.

The author bio on the back cover of A Brilliant Death says Mr. Yocum is a former crime and investigative reporter.  It shows in his writing.  From the disgraced detective who treated Amanda’s death as a hoicide to the ways the boys go about gathering evidence, there’s a clear logic in what we’re told and when.  Remember, details.

In academic circles, there are arguments among people with too much education and too much time on their hands over whether genre can also be Literature.  That’s with a capital “L”.  I submit that A Brilliant Death is Literature.  And a fantastic read.

There’s a prologue in which Mitch setting the stage where he mentions he has two cousins.  All three were born a few months apart.  He says that all three of them had a common bond between them and that was murder.  But their stories aren’t his to tell.  (The cousins pop in and out of this story.)  I really hope that means we’re going to see two more novels from Mr. Yocum.

A Brilliant Death is highly recommended.