Tag Archives: Seventh Street Books

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

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.

When a Thousand Crows Fall

Thousand Falling CrowsA Thousand Falling Crows
Larry D. Sweazy
Seventh Street Books
Paperback $15.95
ebook $ $11.99

I love noir, especially Depression Era noir, and most especially when it’s set in my home state of Texas. So A Thousand Falling Crows was my pint of hooch. Many thanks to the good folks at Seventh Street Books for the review copy.  Seventh Street has an outstanding line, and I need to get caught up on a number of their titles.

Sonny Burton is a Texas Ranger in the Panhandle who has been forced to retire after a shootout with Bonnie and Clyde in which he took a bullet in his right arm. Now the arm has been amputated, Sonny is no longer a Ranger, and he’s got to figure out what to do with the rest of his life.

He befriends the janitor, Aldo Hernandez, at the hospital. Aldo’s daughter has stolen her father’s recipe for bathtub gin and run off with a couple of minor league bootleggers, twin brothers. Aldo is afraid she’s going to end up in serious trouble with the law. He’s right. His daughter and the brothers are about to set out on a Bonnie and Clyde crime spree that is only going to escalate. Continue reading

Being Dead Broke Can be Lethal in Jarrett Creek

Dead Broke_coverDead Broke in Jarett Creek
Terry Shames
Seventh Street Books
Trade Paper, 250 pages, $15.95
ebook $11.99 Kindle Nook

Hard times have come to the small town of Jarrett Creek.  The city coffers are empty, and there’s a dead body behind the American Legion building.

The body belongs the son of a prominent banker who works at his father’s bank.  He was last seen alive in the parking lot after a meeting to discuss what to do about the town being broke.

Now there isn’t any money to pay the police.  The now former chief hasn’t finished drying out, so he’s in no shape to continue with the job, even if there were money to pay him.  The acting chief quits when he learns he won’t be getting paid.

Thus it falls to former police chief Samuel Craddock to fill in.  He agrees to work for a dollar a year.  His first order of business: find who killed Gary Dellmore.  Was it a jealous wife?  A jealous girlfriend?  A business partner?  Someone associated with a failed water park development, the same development that caused the city to go broke?  Or someone else? Continue reading

Passing Time Inside The Black Hour

Black HourThe Black Hour
Lori Rader-Day
Seventh Street Books
Trade Paper, 331 pp., $15.95
Ebook $11.99 Kindle Nook

The Black Hour is Lori Rader-Day’s debut novel. It takes place in the halls of academia, and it shows a good look at the maneuverings that occur in the ivory tower.

The story concerns Amelia Emmet, professor of sociology at a small and rather prestigious private university and victim of a shooting. A student named Leonard Lehane shot Amelia outside her office one evening then turned the gun on himself. Now a year later Amelia has physically recovered enough to return to work. Psychologically she still has some healing to do.

I found the backstory, and figuring out the real backstory is the heart of the mystery, to be quite engaging on a personal level. I work in academia, and for my sins, I was asked earlier this year to serve on a disciplinary committee. The thought of a student coming after me has crossed my mind more than once. It doesn’t help that my office is in a building in which three murders have occurred, one of them a beheading. (My wife is not aware of that, and we’ll just keep it that way, shall we?) Continue reading

The Return of Ellie Stone

No Stone_coverNo Stone Unturned
James W. Ziskin
Seventh Street Books
trade paper, 285 pp., $15.95
ebook $11.99 Kindle Nook

The first Ellie Stone mystery (Styx and Stone, reviewed here) introduced us to the young journalist as she investigated an assault on her father. I found Ellie to be a delightfully flawed protagonist, one who drank and slept around as much as her male counterparts, and with little to no thought of the consequences.

In that inaugural volume of what I hope will be a long running series, all the action took place in New York City and revolved around academic intrigues as Ellie’s father was a respected Dante scholar. For No Stone Unturned, Ellie is back in the small town in upstate New York where she’s been working as a reporter for a few years.

It’s been less than a year since the events in Styx and Stone, and Ellie is still dealing with the emotional wounds she suffered as a result of the events in the first book. When a hunter discovers the nude body of a prominent judge buried in a shallow grave in the woods over Thanksgiving weekend, it could be Ellie’s big break.

If she can survive the investigation, that is. Continue reading

Death and Football in Texas

Last Death of Jack HarbinThe Last Death of Jack Harbin
Terry Shames
Seventh Street Books
Trade paper, 255 pp., $15.95
ebook $11.99
Amazon   Barnes and Noble

I missed Terry Shames’ debut novel, A Killing at Cotton Hill. It was on my radar, but before I got around to buying and reading it, a review copy of her second novel, The Last Death of Jack Harbin, showed up. I’d like to thank Lisa Michalski of Seventh Street Books for the review copy.

This is the second novel about Samuel Craddock, the retired police chief of Jarret Creek, a small town in southeast Texas. In this one, he has to solve the murder of Jack Harbin. Harbin was once one of the stars of the high school football team. He enlisted in the Army shortly before the Gulf War broke out, and when he returned he was missing his eyesight and one leg.

Shortly after his father has a fatal heart attack, Jack is found brutally stabbed in his bed. There are a number of suspects. His former best friend and teammate from high school, his estranged brother, some unknown person with a grudge. Since the current police chief has been taken away to dry out and his replacement is only slightly more competent than Barney Fife, Craddock is asked by the city council to look into the matter. Continue reading

A Review of Styx and Stone

styx_coverStyx and Stone
James W. Ziskin
Seventh Street Books
trade paper 285 pp
US $15.95 Can $17.00
Amazon Barnes and Noble
ebook $11.99 Kindle  Nook

Styx and Stone is a period mystery set in the first couple of weeks of 1960. The cover of this novel says “An Ellie Stone Mystery”. That’s an indication that this is the first volume of a series. This is a good thing.

Ellie Stone isn’t a private investigator. Rather she’s a journalist, but of the hardboiled variety. She drinks and gets laid as much as her male counterparts in the genre. Where she differs from them is that she doesn’t get into shoot-outs, engage in fisticuffs, or end up being knocked unconscious by a blow to the head.

Ellie and her estranged father are the remaining members of the Stone family. Her mother died of illness a few years back, but not before her brother was killed in a motorcycle accident. Her father is a Dante scholar at Columbia, one of the foremost in the world. Ellie is working as a reporter at a small town newspaper up north.

Ellie gets a call telling her that her father was attacked in his study at home. He’s in a coma, and the prognosis isn’t good. So Ellie returns home to keep vigil beside his bed. What she discovers is the manuscript of his latest book is missing. And one of his colleagues was found dead in his bathtub the day after her father was attacked, having apparently knocked his radio into the tub with him.  Being a good reporter, Ellie begins to ask questions about both the attack on her father and the death of his colleague. Continue reading

Step Up to the Bar and Have a Shot of Sugar Pop Moon

Sugar Pop MoonSugar Pop Moon
John Florio
Seventh Street Books
Trade paper $15.95
Ebook $11.99  Kindle Nook

Sugar Pop Moon is a high class moonshine made from beets. It’s also a fine novel. Take your pick. Either way, it will be top notch.

Most of the story is set in New York during Christmas of 1930. (There’s a secondary plot taking place in 1906 filling in part of the backstory.) The country is sinking deeper into the Great Depression. Jersey Leo, AKA Snowball, is a young albino, the illegitimate son of a black boxer and a white gangster’s daughter. To make ends meet, he runs a speakeasy owned by Jimmy McCullough, a major gangster and bootlegger. Jimmy’s laying low after a raid when Snowball, in a bind because the regular supplier won’t deal with him directly, buys a shipment of what is supposed to be a high end moonshine known as sugar pop moon from a Philadelphia gangster. Only what he gets isn’t high end. It’s swill.

Now Snowball has to track down the gangster and get Jimmy’s money back before Jimmy returns. Easier said than done, when there are powerful people who don’t want Snowball to find the man he’s looking for. Throw in some members of a crazed voodoo sect who collect the bones of albinos, and Snowball will soon have his hands full. Continue reading

Reviewing Hammett Unwritten

Hammett UnwrittenHammett Unwritten
Owen Fitzstephen
Seventh Street Books
trade paper, 160 p., $13.95
Amazon Barnes&Noble
ebook $9.99 Kindle  Nook

Seventh Street Books is the mystery and thriller imprint of Prometheus Books. Prometheus Books is the parent company of Pyr, one of the best science fiction and fantasy publishers around. If you’ve read my reviews of their books on the other blogs, you’ll know I expect Seventh Street Books to be top notch.

I’d like to thank Lisa Michalski of Prometheus Books for sending me review copies of some of their titles. The only one I’ve read so far is Hammett Unwritten, and it didn’t disappoint. My expectations for the others are high.

Dashiell Hammett is arguably the greatest writer of detective fiction in history. Certainly in the top five. Before turning his hand to writing, Hammett worked for the Pinkerton Detective Agency in the years immediately before and after World War I. He left the agency due to health reasons. His time with the Pinkertons provided plenty of material for his writing. Hammett claimed that his stories were based on his cases.

HUMPHREY BOGART WITH THE MALTESE FALCON

Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade, holding the Maltese Falcon

Hammett’s first creation was an unnamed operative of the fictional Continental Detective Agency known simply as the Continental Op. He appeared in a number of short stories and the novels Red Harvest and The Dain Curse.  Hammett’s final characters were the husband and wife team of Nick and Nora Charles, who appeared in his final novel, The Thin Man. But in between he created one of the most iconic private investigators of all time, Sam Spade, who made his debut in the classic The Maltese Falcon.

Hammett Unwritten is recursive fiction, in that the novel focuses on Hammett’s books, specifically The Maltese Falcon. It’s not about Hammett the detective, but rather it’s about Hammett the writer.

For the last couple of decades of his life Hammett wrote nothing of any significance. There’s been much speculation as to why this was the case, but no one has ever adequately explained why Hammett quit writing. Was it his health? His relationship with Lillian Hellman? Was he no longer on speaking terms with his muse?

Fitzstephen tries to answer this question, and his answer is close to the latter possibility. As I said, Hammett claimed to have based his fiction on his actual cases, and Fitzstephen takes this idea and runs with it. In this story, The Maltese Falcon is a thinly disguised account of an actual case Hammett worked, one in which he ended up with the counterfeit bird.

Dashiell Hammett

Early in the novel, Hammett gives away the statuette. He spends the rest of the book trying to recover it. Along the way we meet a number of figures who were significant in Hammett’s life.  All the characters from the case put in an appearance, under their “real” names.

The chapters open with quotes from an article Hammett wrote for a writer’s magazine. In them he talks about how to make the reader accept the most fantastical premise. I found this a great conceit. The storyline gets pretty fantastical, bordering at times on fantasy. Yet Fitzstephens follows Hammett’s advice, and in doing so makes me swallow everything, hook, line, and sinker.

The dialogue flows smoothly, and the pages flew by. We see deep inside Hammett’s psyche, something that’s difficult to pull off in a book of this length that covers nearly a 30 year span.

If you’re a fan Dashiell Hammett or The Maltese Falcon, you’ll want to check this one out.  As for me, I’m going to read some more from Seventh Street Books.