Monday, July 25, 2011

New Spenser, Nameless Detective entries are great summer reads

It’s hot outside - and time for easy, relaxing summer reading. If you haven’t discovered Robert Parker or Bill Pronzini, you’re in for a real treat!

Each author has won the Grand Masters Award from the Mystery Writers of America for lifetime achievement and consistent quality. Both are well known for their long-running series starring a hard-working private investigator, but unfortunately Parker died early last year.

“Sixkill” (Putnam, $26.95) is the 39th in his best-selling and exceptionally popular series starring Boston private eye known simply as Spenser.

It’s the last one in the series that Parker completed, although his legacy will live on with other Spenser novels that will be written by Ace Atkins (author of “White Shadow” and “Wicked City”.

Spenser agrees to look into a case for Boston Homicide’s Captain Quirk involving the death of a young woman in the hotel room of Jumbo Nelson, an overweight actor/comedian. Nelson was in Boston filming a new movie; the studio has attorney Rita Fiore hire Spenser to clear Nelson.

Zebulon Sixkill, Nelson’s bodyguard, initially is a suspect; the drunken Cree Indian is fired by Nelson after being beaten up by Spenser.

Although an alliance between Spenser and Sixkill seems unlikely, Parker makes it work, deftly utilizing likable Sixkill as a prominent character.

Spenser’s longtime sidekick Hawk is still off somewhere in Asia, although there are many cameo appearances by others who have appeared in earlier novels.

With his usual snappy dialogue, fast pacing and strong character development, Parker is in fine form; this is one of the best books in a great series.

“Camouflage” by Bill Pronzini (Forge, $24.99) is the 38th in his series featuring San Francisco private eye known only as “the Nameless Detective”.

Business executive David Virden hires Nameless to deliver some papers to his first wife. He tracks her down, but she refuses to sign them.

Virden stops payment and threatens to sue, claiming that the detective hadn’t found the right woman. The case gets more complicate as Virden disappears.

As the Nameless Detective investigates, he unearths unnerving information and exposes a carefully created scheme. The result is totally unexpected and well orchestrated by Pronzini, one of today’s best crime novelists.

A secondary subplot showcasing Jake Runyon, another agency operative, is more personal. He’s looking into allegations that his girlfriend’s young son is being beaten by her ex-husband. There’s a dead woman involved; Runyon struggles to find a devious killer.

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop,
has reviewed crime novels and noir thrillers regularly since 1987.
This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on Sunday, July 24, 2011.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

"Very Bad Men" is one of year's best

Harry Dolan will be talking about his latest novel 
and signing books on Thursday at 7 p.m. at 
Schuler Books and Music, Meridian Mall, 1982 W. Grand River, Okemos.

It’s been about two years since Ann Arbor author Harry Dolan burst on the crime novel scene with his highly acclaimed debut novel “Bad Things Happen”, which introduced David Loogan, editor of “Gray Streets”, a mystery magazine.

The wait’s definitely worthwhile; Dolan’s back with a vengeance – and so is Loogan, in “Very Bad Men” (Amy Einhorn/Putnam, $25.95).

Loogan gets involved in a strange investigation when a manuscript appears outside his office door. It gets his attention right away – it confesses to a murder that just took place – giving unannounced details. Loogan gets more concerned when the manuscript identifies the killer’s next proposed victim.

The journalist calls in his live-in girlfriend, Ann Arbor Police Detective Elizabeth Waishkey; soon the hunt is on to identify and stop the murderer.

Dolan deftly hooks the reader from the opening chapter, where he relays information about the murderer and his plans to kill Terry Dawtrey, a prison inmate in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Dawtrey’s been jailed for his involvement in a bank heist 17 years earlier; the killer, Anthony Lark, is successful, but in an unexpected way. He feels he’s justified and sets his sights on murdering the other two remaining robbers. Lark has more than a few mental problems, but feels up to the challenge, using an amazing assortment of devious methods.

Loogan and Waishkey aren’t just sitting still, they’re running all over the state trying to put together answers, getting both help and hindrance from a young journalist looking for a tabloid feature story.

The case gets considerably more challenging, involving a U.S. Senator, local law enforcement officers, a paralyzed former sheriff and the charismatic daughter of the sheriff, who’s running for election as Michigan’s next senator.

The body count rises as the tension mounts; the complicated plot deals a lot with motives - and the lengths people will go to keep deadly secrets.

Dolan is exceptionally good at keeping the pacing going, using strong well- developed, colorful characters, brisk dialogue and seemingly endless plot twists. It’s easily one of the year’s best mysteries!

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop, 
has reviewed crime novels and noir thrillers regularly since 1987.
This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on July 17, 2011.


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Book Review: Kristina Riggle's Things We Didn't Say

Kristina Riggle will be talking about her latest novel 
and autographing books on Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. 
at Schuler Books & Music, 2820 Towne Center Blvd., 
Eastwood Towne Center Lansing.

“Things We Didn’t Say” by Grand Rapids author Kristina Riggle (Morrow, $14.99) offers an intriguing, compelling look at a contemporary dysfunctional family.

Set mostly in a slightly altered Grand Rapids, with flashback scenes in Laingsburg, Riggle’s third novel is not exactly what most people are likely to take to the beach for pleasant summertime reading.

Told through a variety of multiple viewpoints, Riggle explores many different emotional situations, but at least nobody dies.

Edna Leigh Casey (or just Casey), one of the book’s main characters, is frustrated from the beginning, as she’s trying to get out of a somewhat problematic relationship. She’s 26, living with newspaper reporter Michael Turner, and serving as a stepmother to his three children, Angel, Dylan and Jewel.

As a blended family there are numerous confrontations, including unpleasant scenes with Mallory, David’s ex-wife, who’s psychologically unstable and an alcoholic.

Tensions mount when 14-year-old Dylan disappears after being dropped off at school. Riggle skillfully develops the ensuing frantic search, smoothly shifting viewpoints as she explores attitudes and insights while increasing tension.

There are many other challenges; Casey has her own secrets and is a recovering alcoholic. David has issues with his over-bearing, successful father. Mallory is always having emotional issues; the kids find adjustment is difficult and rebel in their own way.

Most of the book seems devoted to arguing, bickering, yelling and sniping, leaving the reader likely to feel that maybe their life isn’t really that bad in comparison.

The novel’s title indicates one of the major difficulties of this extended family – while they do communicate, they don’t listen very well or say what’s really on their mind.

There’s a brief additional section designed for reading or discussion groups, with 15 interesting and thought-provoking questions.

There are no easy answers, but the flawed characters and their assorted problems are likely to linger long after the reader is finished.

Riggle is a freelance journalist, short story writer and co-editor for fiction at the e-zine Literary Mama. Her previous two books, “Real Life and Liars” and “The Life You’ve Imagined” are now available in paperback.

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop, has reviewed books regularly since 1987.

This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on July 10, 2011.


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Likable heroes fill two new mysteries

Likable heroes and nasty killers abound in a pair of recent highly entertaining police procedural crime novels.
“Buried Prey” by best-selling author John Sandford (Putnam, $27.95) is the 21st in his exceptionally popular series starring Lucas Davenport, head of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

Two mummified bodies of young girls are discovered underneath an old house that’s being torn down. Two sisters disappeared in 1985 and their bodies were never found; a homeless man was accused in the case.

It was Lucas’ first case when he was just a young cop bring promoted out of uniform, but it was one he never forgot; he was dissatisfied with the outcome.

The first part of the book is set in 1985; it examines Davenport’s involvement, tracking down suspicious leads in a complicated case.

Now he’s trying to figure out who really was responsible. He goes all out in his efforts, utilizing his staff and the latest technology. There are no easy answers, but a nasty scheming villain and a few real surprises.

This is another fine performance by one of America’s best crime fiction novelists; while it’s helpful to read earlier volumes in this series to fully appreciate Davenport’s career and growth, it’s not essential.

“Love Dies” by Timothy Sheard (Hard Ball Press, $15) is a stand-alone paperback crime novel set in New York City, a few years after the 9/11 attack.

It introduces Nicholas Andreas, who works for the NYC Department of Health as an epidemiologist. Evaluating health facts and risk factors since the catastrophic event, Andreas escapes the tedium by scanning the daily obituaries.

He discovers that numerous very wealthy individuals have recently died accidentally and decides to investigate. Andreas gets help from Stanley Bezlin, a neighbor and former Brooklyn cop.
Alex Germaine, a frustrated mystery author, has come up with a devious plan. He attends high profile divorce court proceedings in disguise; later he quietly offers to “accidentally” eliminate the battling husband or wife for $50,000.

As the body count rises, Andreas’ suspicions increase; soon he becomes a target for the clever killer.
Sheard, who’s written four other crime novels starring medical labor activist Lenny Moss, has created a compelling tale with flawed, realistic characters, an unusual plot and lots of fast-paced action.

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop, has reviewed crime novels and noir thrillers regularly since 1987.

This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on Sunday, July 3, 2011.


Saturday, July 2, 2011

July 2011 Curiousities Newsletter

Hello, Curiousities Readers!

Stop in soon to take advantage of our July Sale!

50% OFF books in the American Travel, American History and Movie Books sections!

June was a busy month for Curious!

Some of our recent acquisitions include:
Children's early readers and picture books; World histories (China, Russia, Germany and more); a nice collection of Baedeker's travel guides (Italy, Germany, England and France,etc.) published from 1910 and up;

We've also gotten dozens of art, art history, music and dance books; Hardcover, paperback and comic book editions of Neil Gaiman's The Sandman; Syrian and Middle Eastern fiction; Native American philosophies and histories;
Other new arrivals include a first British edition of  A Haunted Woman by David Lindsay,and a selection of William Gibson's novels in hardcover; We've added more paperback fiction titles and also have put out a lovely first edition of Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies, by Beatrix Potter;

Shop News:
 - Curious is now on Facebook, and we want to be your friend! Please "Like" us, if you'd like. Exciting acquisitions, cool photos, special sales and shop news items are posted on a regular basis.
 - We've recently sold a lot of mysteries, both in paperback and hardback; We're in the process of restocking. If you don't see books by your favorite author, just ask... we have many more in storage! Stop in soon to snag a few new titles!

 - Mark your calendar - the 54th Michigan Antiquarian Book and Paper Show will be on Sunday, September 25th. More information about this and other shows is available on our show webpage.

 - Many thanks to all who attended Classicon,  our classic comic, pulp, paperback and glamour art show! Classicon 40 is scheduled for Saturday, November 12 at the University Quality Inn - see our web page for more information.

Keep cool with cheap thrills off our 50 cent and dollar book carts; we've also added more books to our dollar bargain section downstairs!

We are now open until 8 pm. Mon.-Sat. and from Noon- 5 pm. on Sunday!

Curious Books will be closed on the 4th of July!

Best wishes for the summer from Ray, Mark, Audrey and all of us at:
Curious Books
307 East Grand River
East Lansing, MI  48823
(517) 332-0112