Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Supplement Your Reading with Listening

I'm going to take a slight detour from my usual assault on the art of writing book reviews and mention several podcasts that might be of interest to readers of crime/mystery/thriller/suspense books.

Clute and Edwards
Both Shannon Clute and Richard Edwards have PhDs: Clute in Romance Studies and Edwards in Critical Studies. Clute is now a mystery novelist (The Mint Condition) and freelance writer. Edwards is an Assistant Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at Indiana University's School of Informatics in the Division of New Media. They have a love of noir and share that love on a website and two podcasts.

They have links to their podcasts on as well as news of their activities including appearances, other writings, and links to their favorite noir web sites. I am most familiar with their podcasts, Out of the Past, and Behind the Black Mask.

Out of the Past is a monthly podcast where they have a detailed discussion on a noir or neo-noir topic, mostly films. Neo-noir allows them to include films such as Blade Runner and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang as well as classic noir like the Maltese Falcon, The Postman Always Rings Twice, and Double Indemnity. Their discussions are interesting and insightful and inspire me to seek out the films. They are the primary reason why I purchased the recent four disc release of the Blade Runner director's cut and why I am considering a Netflix subscription.

On Behind the Black Mask: Mystery Writers Revealed, they interview writers of hard-boiled, pulp, mystery, and suspense. The interviews are excellent and you come away understanding how the author works to create characters and plots. You will also learn interesting tidbits such as Jason Starr can type 40 words a minute with two fingers. Lauri King will be interviewed in February.

This is an interesting website with the purpose to investigate crime with crime professionals. The podcasts include true crime topics such as the role of DNA evidence, dealing with a bomb threat, and why are prostitutes the victims of violent crime as well as author interviews. The true crime topics are often very short (under 3 minutes) while author interviews can run 15 minutes. The podcasts are not updated very often, the most recent being an interview with Ian Rankin.

Monday, January 21, 2008

New Reviews on Revish

I've been posting mostly on Revish lately. It is easier to track and organize my reading there and the social aspect is interesting.

Snitch Jacket by Christopher Goffard. It is a 2008 Edgar nominee for best first novel by an American author. I highly recommend it if you like your noir crime dark with a twisted humorous touch.

Chicago Blues, edited by Libby Hellman. Collection of 21 crime stories set in Chicago by authors with a connection to Chicago. Also recommended.

Unnatural Inquirer (Nightside, Book 8), by Simon Green. a fun, light read if you like your wisecracking hardboiled detective story set in a fantasy world.

A Long Way Gone, by Ishmael Beah.This is the memoir of a child soldier in Sierra Leone. Horrifying because true. Excellent.
UPDATE: Beah's account is is being criticized - the chronology is off and his time as a child soldier might have been considerably less than 2 years. Read the Publisher's Weekly article here.

The Redbreast, by Jo Nesbo. A crime thriller set in Norway. A good read. The actions moves between the Eastern Front and Norwegians who fought for Germany and 2002 when something is afoot.

Vorpal Blade, John Ringo. Military science fiction. Mankind ventures to the stars and kills things. A sequel to Into the Looking Glass.

Pish, Posh, Said Hieronymus Bosch, by Nancy Willard. Wonderfully illustrated children's book that looks into Bosch's household through the eyes of his cook. Great fun.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

If you can't browse a bookstore, where do you look for crime, mysteries, and thrillers

This post is going to concentrate on crime/mystery/thrillers and true crime.

In a previous post I mentioned that I find it difficult to browse big box bookstores. You are more likely to find the latest James Patterson bestseller featured than, say, Irish crime/mystery writers. Speaking of Patterson, I need to make a detour and point to this hilarious take on his latest, You've Been Warned, over at Natural/Artificial . Be sure you don't miss the list of last sentences in each chapter below the jump.

When I go to one of these stores I have lists and almost never make a spontaneous purchase. Well, I almost bought Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff but that's because it practically leaped off the shelf and tackled me. The cover is a bright yellow vinyl and it's 9.5 inches high - really hard to miss on a shelf of paperbacks when your eyes pass over it. I got it from our public library instead.

So, where do I get authors and titles for my lists? Blogs. There are terrific bloggers who cover the crime/mystery/thriller genres and from whom I have learned about authors I likely would not otherwise have discovered.

Below are links from my Google Reader. First you will find the sources I go to to read about fiction. Following that are links to true crime sites that often discuss books. I also included a non-blog book review website, Gumshoe Review, and a social network, Crimespace.

These are not meant to be inclusive lists of blogs and web sites. Suggestions are always welcome.

Titles following a link are ones that I remember learning about from the blog. There are a lot more, they just don't come to mind as I write.


Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind

Crime Always Pays The Judas Heart, Ingrid Black; The Redbreast, Jo Nesbo

Crime Down Under

Crime Fiction Dossier

Detectives Beyond Borders: A Forum for International Crime fiction

Euro Crime

It's A Crime! (or a Mystery)

Killer Year

Material Witness - serous about crime fiction

Maxine's Book Reviews

Mystery Scene

Petrona - In the Woods, Tana French

Shotsmag Confidential

Sons of Spade

The Hungry Detective

The Outfit: A Collective of Chicago Crime Writers - Chicago Blues, Libby Fischer Hellman, ed.

The Rap Sheet

Working Stiffs: Where Crime Writers Talk About Life, Work, and Murder


Crime Rant: Deliberating Crime Coast to Coast

CLEWS The Historic True Crime blog - The Science of Sherlock Holmes: From Baskerville Hall to the Valley of Fear, the Real Forensics Behind the Great Detective's Greatest Cases, E. J. Wagner.

Criminal Conduct .. Blogging Crime in 4/4 Time ..

In Cold Blog

True Crime Blog UK

True Crime Magazine


The Gumshoe Review

Crimespace: A place for readers and writers of crime fiction to meet

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Judas Heart by Ingrid Black

I was thinking recently that it is not fun trying to browse the big box bookstores. They just are not laid out for discovery. Which leads me to this:

If I didn't have Internet Access
And If I hadn't discovered blogs
And If I hadn't found Crime Always Pays
And If Declan Burke hadn't offered a copy of The Judas Heart to his readers
And If I hadn't scored a copy
Then I might never have discovered Ingrid Black.

Ingrid Black is actually the pseudonym of a wife-and-husband writing team living in Dublin, Ireland. The Judas Heart is the third in a series featuring former FBI agent Saxon and all are set in Dublin. Saxon is a woman whose first name do not know. The first two in the series are The Dead (2003) and The Dark Eye (2004).

Saxon lost her faith in being a Special Agent, that they were actually accomplishing anything, and resigned after five years. Now she is a true-crime writer, living in Dublin and in a relationship with Grace Fitzgerald, Detective Chief Superintendent with the Murder Squad of the Dublin Metropolitan Police. Saxon is a bit of a loose cannon,impulsive, tenacious, and not known for her people skills.

As the story begins, Saxon sees a former FBI colleague and mentor, Leon Kaminski (known as J.J.) at a book stall. They make eye contact but before Saxon can get to him, he deliberately gives her the slip and she is left puzzled and annoyed. Over lunch with Fitzgerald we see that Saxon inclined to over analyze Kaminski's actions. Fitzgerald suggests that she is making things complicated and suggests that she find out where he is staying and say hello. Then Fitzgerald gets a call that a murdered woman has been discovered and is off to handle the investigation leaving Saxon to act on Kaminski.

Then things get complicated: Saxon knew the murdered woman slightly; the new Assistant Commissioner asks Saxon to join the investigation as a consultant; Saxon begins to find out what happened to Kaminski after they parted ways but the information raises more questions; Saxon begins to suspect that there is a connection between Kaminski and the murder; and who is Buck Randall III anyway.

I really enjoyed this book and rate it one of my top reads of 2007. I like it for several reasons but let me get the technical reasons out of the way first.

  • The Judas Heart is a first person narrative. This approach appeals to me because I often find it more interesting to know only what the narrator knows.
  • The evidence is uncovered in the course of normal police investigation (with some dramatic license). Saxon is the one who makes the big break but with a few initial clues I think you can argue for inevitable discovery.
  • The authors do not have Saxon withhold information from the police. I get really annoyed with a character deciding to keep information to him/herself for no logical reason except to complicate the investigation for the reader.
The main reason I like this book is Saxon. She is one of the more intriguing characters I've read lately and I've been looking for a good series character. I don't think I've been as taken with a female character since Carol O'Connell introduced Kathy Mallory in Mallory's Oracle. As you read Saxon's narration you can almost feel her mind at work, brooding at times, at others furiously racing, rearranging what she knows, trying to fit evidence into a framework. All the while there is Grace Fitzgerald trying to keep her focused and rational.

I don't believe that The Judas Heart is available in the U.S. yet but you can find the first two in the series on Amazon. While you are waiting, start with them. That way you will have the back-story when you get your hands on the latest.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Catching up.

I've finally caught up on my library reads. I just put a review of Parnell Hall's Hitman up on Revish. This is Hall's 16th Stanley Hastings mystery. It is in the humor category of crime fiction and a good read.

The Secret

I read The Secret this morning and posted my thoughts about it on Revish. My opinion, an assault on common sense and critical thinking. Read my review of The Secret here.

Some more reviews on Revish

I've put three more reviews on while I'm not entirely consistent in this, I'm putting books I checked out of the library on Revish and linking to the reviews from here. Books I own I'm discussing here. But not always.

Creation in Death by J. D. Robb - the 27th book in her Death series.

13 Bullets by David Wellington- an interesting look at vampires from a zombie expert .

Choir of Ill Children by Tom Piccirilli- A weird, Southern Gothic story.