Raven’s Criminally Good Discoveries- Larry Quartley-Closure, Ian Hough-Flake, Rob Kitchin-Stiffed, (Ed.) Craig Douglas & Darren Sant- Gloves Off

Aside from my reviewing of titles originating from the more mainstream publishers, every so often some other little gems wend their way to me via social networking. Here is a quick round-up of a few of the best I’ve read so far, and maybe you too may discover some hidden delights amongst these. Hope you enjoy!

For Zachary Taylor it’s about to get personal; a detective who can’t let go of the past or the part he played in the murder of his old DCI. Investigating the brutal rape and murder of a young woman, whose death pulls the past into the here and now. In 2003 Detective Chief Inspector Charlie Benner was gunned down when he and other officers were caught up in a shooting frenzy between rival drug gangs. Zachary Taylor was among the first to arrive at the bloodbath. He worked the case – desperate for a conviction – but in the end his chief suspect, James Black, and the faceless guilty walked away, sticking two fingers up at the justice system. For Taylor the case remained unsolved. Seven years later, Taylor is investigating the murder of Stella Kerr – whose boyfriend, Steve Lamb, charged with the heinous crime had gone on the run. Taylor quickly learns that in Lamb there is a connection to the past and James Black. He believes the same dark forces responsible for the slaying of his old DCI are behind the drug fuelled murder of Stella Kerr…

A London- based police procedural that I believe could herald the start of a good series featuring DCI Zachary Taylor. From the brutal opening chapter, Quartley maintains the pace in this well-crafted, and most importantly, credible depiction of a murder investigation. With the interweaving of a previous case and Taylor’s obsession with bringing odious businessman James Black to justice for his sins of the past, Quartley establishes a great tension between the two that plays out well throughout the book. Taylor is a well-formed and engaging character, who carries the thrust of the story well and he is thankfully relatively baggage-free that is a refreshing change when compared with many fictional male detectives. Add to the mix some very assured plotting, and I for one, would definitely pick up the next in the series.

Visit the author’s website here: http://larryquartley.com/ and follow on Twitter @quartley

It’s winter on the cocaine pipeline in Western Massachusetts. When the biggest outlaw biker gang in the rural Northeast collide headlong with the Mafia, the result isn’t pretty. Martin, an English immigrant, is caught smack in the middle of the war, and the snow-ride proves even darker than the city he left behind. Bernie Del Monti, head of the biker crew, has taken Martin under his wing. Martin’s father-in-law, Ralph Cerillo, is a mafia capo and Del Monti’s biggest distributor. When the girlfriend of Springfield mob boss Paul Vinti disappears after a biker party, old differences explode to the surface and the guns come out. A series of tit-for-tat incidents escalates, until Vinti brings in his most feared and evil hit-man. Del Monti responds with everything he has and Martin finds himself a major player in the heart of a primal winter struggle.

For the most part I enjoyed this depiction of Martin, an Englishman in exile, sucked into the dirty and brutal world of drug dealing, and grappling with the loyalties of family ties. There is a good pace to the writing as we bear witness to the less than savoury activities of Martin’s cohorts, as he finds himself enmeshed in a world of violence with a host of characters that could have walked in from the set of Breaking Bad. Hough captures the dialogue of his characters extremely well and there is a good pared down style to this. Equally the sense of location is very good with an atmospheric feel to depict the cold and harshness of the locale. I did feel that some of the writing could have been tightened up slightly and there may be one or two too many references to Martin’s relationship with his homeland and his love of Manchester United (!), but that aside, this one is definitely worth a read.

 Ian Hough is from Manchester. He currently lives in exile from that city’s Thought Police in an undisclosed location in the USA. Author of Perry Boys and Perry Boys Abroad, and a regular contributor to United We Stand fanzine. His natural habitat is drinking heavily while watching conspiracy theory videos on YouTube. He knows they’re out to get him, and it’s not just the drugs.. Follow on Twitter @IanHough


Tadhg Maguire wakes to find himself spooning a dead man. The stiff is Tony Marino, lieutenant to mobster Aldo Pirelli. It doesn’t matter how the local enforcer ended up between Tadhg’s sheets, Pirelli is liable to leap to the wrong conclusion and demand rough justice. The right thing to do would be to call the cops. The sensible thing to do would be to disappear. Forever. The only other option is to get rid of the body and pretend it was never there. No body, no crime. What he needs is a couple of friends to help dispose of the heavy corpse. Little do Tadhg’s friends know what kind of reward they’ll receive for their selfless act – threatened, chased, shot at, and kidnapped with demands to return a million dollars they don’t possess. By mid-afternoon Tadhg is the most wanted man in America. Not bad for someone who’d never previously had so much as parking ticket. If he survives the day he’s resigned to serving time, but not before he saves his friends from the same fate.

I will put my hands up straightaway and confess that ‘comic’ crime does not usually sit well with me, and apart from Carl Hiaasen and Colin Bateman, I very rarely pick up books billed as such. However, Stiffed was a genuinely very entertaining and equally funny read. You know how sometimes you ruminate at the end of the day and say “Wasn’t that just the day from hell“, well, think twice, because Tadhg’s day can easily trump the minor irritations of the average day!  Waking up with a corpse, grappling with the realisation that your girlfriend is missing, being pursued by some very nasty characters indeed, and relying on the help of two hapless friends with dubious social skills, and you get a sense of how bad his day really is.  Not only has Kitchin constructed a very readable and compelling plotline, but the comic touches are a joy. There are numerous completely laugh-out-loud moments that appealed to my dark sense of humour, and I loved the interplay between Tadhg and his friends, who bring a whole new level of ineptitude to the world of body disposal. There is a nice little twist involving Tadgh’s girlfriend and his blundering avoidance of the baddies of the piece is well played out. All in all, a bit of a hoot!

Rob Kitchin lives in Ireland where he is a  director of a research institute and a regular media commentator on social issues. He is the author of two police procedural novels and dozens of short stories. In addition to writing crime fiction, he’s the author or editor of 20 academic books and a 12 volume encyclopedia. He writes two blogs: http://theviewfromthebluehouse and http://irelandafternama Follow on Twitter @RobKitchin

Jose’s review at The Game’s Afoot: http://jiescribano.wordpress.com



Gloves Off is a collection of dark stories from the cream of the literary crop. These stories have one thing in common: they will come at you, all guns blazing. There’s a story lurking down every dark alley. Just when your back is turned a plot-twist is ready to attack. The stories in this anthology are mainly crime, but there is also grim humour and the supernatural; dark tales for an adult audience featuring hit men, mobsters, bikers and stalkers. Are you prepared for the bloody scenes within?This anthology was spawned from the dark, talented minds of : Gareth Spark, Richard Godwin, Paul D. Brazill, Aidan Thorn, Pete Sortwell, B.R. Stateham, Brian Panowich, Ryan Sayles, Chris Leek, David Barber, Vic Errington, Graham Smith,Walter Conley, Tom Pitts, Allen Miles, Jim Spry, Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw, Mike Monson, Alan Griffiths.

I’m making a concerted effort this year to read more short stories as this is a genre that has never really appealed to me, but am now discovering some real delights. This collection is great if you like your crime writing with a darker edge, and for the more faint hearted among you, this does fall on the more visceral side in some of the stories within this collection. Off the back of this I have discovered some good new authors, both American and British, and would definitely recommend this sharp and gripping collection if you are looking for some new criminal inspiration!



  1. Oh, I’m so glad you included Rob Kitchin here. I think he’s very talented, and Stiffed is a terrific example of ‘screwball noir.’ If you haven’t read his The Rule Book and The White Gallows, I recommend them too.

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