Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sanford's dark novel may not suit all

"Bad Blood" by best-selling author John Sandford (Putnam, $27.95)
is the fourth book in his popular series starring Detective Virgil Flowers.

Sandford is well-known for his excellent "Prey" series, featuring
Lucas Davenport, head of Minnesota's special Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

But Davenport plays only a minor role in this novel.
The quirky Flowers is at the forefront when he's called
to look into a series of deaths in a rural county.

Lee Coakley, the area's new female sheriff, contacts Flowers
for assistance in investigating the unusual murder of Jacob Flood,
a farmer who died while delivering a load of soybeans at a grain elevator.

Flood was killed by Bob Tripp, a teenage employee who hit him
over the head with a T-ball bat and tried to make it look like an accident.

The local cops don't believe the story.
They arrest Tripp and throw him in jail.
The next day, his body is discovered in his cell - an apparent suicide.

Meanwhile, the officer on duty, Jim Crocker, is found dead at home.
Coakley and Flowers are trying to find a link between the deaths.

Their diligent work uncovers another unsolved murder of a young woman a year earlier.
All four were members of a strange religious cult.
As they dig deeper, they discover many dark secrets of the community,
only to be stonewalled by various cult members.

Flowers, the son of a Lutheran minister, is in fine form as he confronts
the Bible-thumping cult members who quote frequently from the
holy book to justify their behavior.

The dark humor adds a needed lighter touch to the novel,
and the growing relationship between Coakley and Flowers adds additional entertainment.

It's a top-notch, compelling crime novel, but it may not be for everybody.
Unwary readers may not be initially prepared for a plot that covers a
variety of dark subjects including child abuse, rape and incest.

"Prey" fans who enjoy solid police procedural novels won't be disappointed, however.
Sandford, (the pseudonym for John Camp) is likely to gain new readers
who will want to catch up on Flowers' memorable earlier appearances.

Ray Walsh, owner of the Curious Book Shop, has reviewed crime novels and noir thrillers regularly for the Lansing State Journal since 1987.
(Originally published by the Lansing State Journal on September 26, 2010.)


Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Book Show is Coming!

The 52nd Michigan Antiquarian Book and Paper Show is swiftly approaching! 
Join us at the Lansing Center on Sunday, October 3rd for the Midwest's LARGEST book and paper show. 
The Michigan Antiquarian Book & Paper Show is an assembly of many booksellers from around the American Midwest, Canada, and from further away. We gather at the show twice a year to display and sell books and other printed materials to the public. It's a large one-day show, overseen by the owner of the Curious Book Shop, Ray Walsh.We typically have 70 dealers or more. An average booth might have three tables, and often each table will have bookshelves upon it, so there is a truly impressive amount of material on display.

As this is an antiquarian show, most of the items on display will be older - secondhand, collectible, rare, and often out of print or unavailable. New items are typically not included unless they're related to collectible printed material. In addition to books, dealers bring magazines, posters, postcards, prints, maps, comic books, and so on. Some items may be just a few years old,  and others date back hundreds of years. The prices may vary from a dollar to ten thousand dollars or more. There's sure to be an incredible variety of 


Visitors to the show should wear comfortable shoes and expect to spend at least an hour browsing. The show can be experienced as a museum as much as an opportunity for shopping. Plenty of eating is provided for people who need a rest, and there's a cart that sells hot dogs, sandwiches, salads, beverages and other food items.


Although many of the dealers who attend the show perform appraisals, visitors should not bring their own books and items to the show without making prior arrangements. For security reasons, you can't simply walk in with your own books. You can talk to dealers and collect business cards, of course, and then make other arrangements later.

Some dealers are happy to haggle over prices, some aren't. 
A smile is your best bargaining tool!

See the show page at our website for more information
about the upcoming book show.

We hope to see you there!


Familiar Characters Again on the Hunt in Recent Releases

Two recent crime novels feature determined investigators, dead bodies and a clever sociopath.

Yet they differ dramatically - one is an action-packed tough guy tale while the other is a police procedural.

"Judgement and Wrath" by Matt Hilton (William Morrow, $24.99) is the exciting sequel to his acclaimed debut "Dead Man's Dust."

Joe Hunter, a former counter-terrorist expert, is working as a private investigator in Florida, along with his buddy Rink. He's hired by Richard Dean to get Dean's 18-year-old daughter, Marianne, away from her abusive millionaire boyfriend, Bradley.

Hunter tracks them down, only to find it's not quite as Dean had described. The pair seem very much in love and Marianne says she has not been abused.

Dantalion, a crazed, deliberate, experienced hitman, has his own agenda and is out to kill Bradley. Hunter thwarts the attempt, barely escaping with the couple.

Considering himself a fallen angel, Dantalion bizarrely keeps score of his kills in a little notebook. He's determined to succeed, regardless of the cost of human life.

This pulse-pounding thriller will appeal to those who enjoy Lee Child's "Reacher" series. It would make a dandy movie in the best, early Rambo tradition.

"Hangman" by Faye Kellerman (William Morrow, $25.99) is the latest crime novel starring Los Angeles Police Lt. Peter Decker and his wife, Rina Lazarus.

Decker agrees to do a favor for an old friend, but the situation becomes complicated when she disappears, leaving behind Gabe, her 14-year-old son.

Her husband becomes a prime suspect, because of his violent nature, recent actions and past prowess as a professional hitman. Meanwhile, Decker and his team get involved in the murder investigation of Adrianna Blanc, a local neonatal nurse whose body is discovered hanging at a construction site.

Adrianna's lifestyle offers many clues; her boyfriend is missing and the body count slowly rises.

Kellerman's book is ideal for fans of her long-running series, further exploring the strained relationship of Decker and Lazarus.

Ray Walsh, owner of the Curious Book Shop, has reviewed crime novels and noir thrillers regularly for the Lansing State Journal since 1987.
(Originally published by the Lansing State Journal on September 12, 2010.)


Friday, September 10, 2010

Book Review: Novels Take a Step Back in Time

Summer's almost over, so here's a look at a few entertaining books you might have missed.

"Blockade Billy" by Stephen King (Scribner, $14.99) is a slim hardback that includes the 80-page title novella and a bonus short story that originally appeared in Esquire.

King's bloody little baseball tale showcases William "Blockade Billy" Blakely,
an Iowa farm league catcher who's called up to the New Jersey Titans at the beginning of the 1957 season.

The Titans' old third-base coach and narrator of this tale aptly notes "this ain't no kids' sports novel" and he's right. King deftly captures the flavor of 1950s baseball as he explores the dark reasons why the sport has tried to eliminate any mention of the quirky young player.
"Morality" is a brief tale about a desperate couple, tough decisions and unexpected effects. This book is ideal for die-hard King fans who can't wait for his next novel.

"So Cold the River" by award-winning crime novelist Michael Koryta (Little Brown, $24.99) is a powerful step into the supernatural for the highly talented author.

Eric Shaw is a washed-up filmmaker who's hired to make a video of the early history of a dying billionaire's career. It leads him to a small Indiana resort town and a particularly creepy hotel.

Shaw has strange visions and odd reactions when he cracks open a bottle of "Pluto Water" that the billionaire had saved for years. There are many deftly handled flashback scenes of the 1920s,
While it takes a while to develop, Koryta's mesmerizing tale is easily one of the year's best supernatural novels.

"The Big Bang" by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25) is the last book starring iconic private eye Mike Hammer.
The fast-paced collaboration is based on a lost Spillane manuscript completed by Collins. It smoothly captures life in the 1960s, dealing with drug trafficking in New York City.

It has all the elements that made Spillane one of America's top selling authors: lots of violence, sexual innuendoes, a devious killer and a twisted plot. Dedicated Mike Hammer lovers will enjoy one last fling with Spillane's memorable characters.

Ray Walsh, owner of the Curious Book Shop, has reviewed crime novels and noir thrillers regularly for the Lansing State Journal since 1987.

(Originally published by the Lansing State Journal on September 5, 2010.)