January 2015 Round-Up and Raven’s Book of the Month

_DSC0185 (Common Raven)2015 has certainly begun with a bang with no less than 9 reviews posted, four non-starters (which I am far too polite to name), two blog tours, and a huge amount of incredibly tempting books arriving by the day. You crime readers are in for a few treats in the next couple of months, I can tell you! The only downside has been my appalling performance in the TBR Double Dog Dare Challenge hosted by James Reads Books where I have managed the giddy total of…wait for it…one book from my TBR mountain This may take some time to reach the apex of I feel. But I am not deterred, and am aiming for a more solid performance in February. Maybe two- ha! Anyway, asides from this, lots of exciting stuff to come in the next month. Have a good February everyone.

BOOKS REVIEWED:

Tom Callaghan- A Killing Winter

Elena Forbes- The Jigsaw Man (www.crimefictionlover.com)

Patrick Hoffman- The White Van

Peter May- Runaway

David McCaffrey- Hellbound

Grant Nicol- The Mistake (www.crimefictionlover.com)

 R. S. Pateman- The Prophecy of Bees 

Marcus Sedgwick- A Love Like Blood 

Philip Taffs- The Evil Inside  

RAVEN’S BOOK(S) OF THE MONTH

tom white

Absolute dead heat this month between two books, both from debut authors, reflecting my preferred blog content for this year. First, the utterly marvellous A Killing Winter by Tom Callaghan, with its bleak and atmospheric Kyrgyzstan setting that totally suited a chilly January night’s reading. Perfect for fans of Child 44. Closely followed by Patrick Hoffman’s The White Van– a gritty and spare San Francisco set thriller that oozed violence throughout, yet delivered so much human vulnerability at the same time. Both different and both brilliant…

Patrick Hoffman- The White Van

whiteAt a dive bar in San Francisco’s edgy Tenderloin district, the dishevelled Emily Rosario is drinking whiskey and looking for an escape. When she is approached by a mysterious and wealthy Russian, she thinks she has found an exit from her drifter lifestyle and drug-addict boyfriend. A week later she finds herself drugged, disoriented and wanted for robbery.

On the other side of town, cop Leo Elias is broke, alcoholic and desperate. When he hears about an unsolved bank robbery, the stolen money proves too strong a temptation. Elias takes the case into his own hands, hoping to find the criminal and the money before anyone else does…

Knowing my penchant for edgy American crime fiction, The White Van from debut novelist Patrick Hoffman, delivered in spades. With what appears to be an incredibly simple premise for a story, the power of Hoffman’s incredibly understated prose, and the natural fluidity and ramping up of the tension, heralds a striking new voice in the genre. I am confident enough to compare Hoffman to another of my favourite authors Denis Johnson, in terms of the pared- down style. Like Johnson, the rendition of violence when it occurs is rapid and brutal, entirely reflective of the burgeoning intensity of the story.

From its ‘what-the-hell-is-going-on’ opening, I was utterly hooked from the outset, and immediately immersed in Emily’s world sharing her confusion and fear at the situation she finds herself in. The build-up to her involvement in a bank robbery is brilliantly formulated, and likewise her attempts to extricate herself from the clutches of the Russian gang that have used her effectively as an unwitting pawn in their crime. She is a curious mix of vulnerability, underscored by a steely determination to both conquer and profit from the situation she finds herself in. Equally, Hoffman’s cast iron characterisation of the burnt out cop, Leo Elias, down on his luck, in debt to his eyeballs with an imploding marriage, gave a real solidity to the storyline overall. As Elias becomes enmeshed in a maelstrom of problems, and his natural greed kicks in, his unrelenting pursuit of Emily and her cohorts adds a further intense momentum to the plot. This is further strengthened by the changing parameters of Elias’ professional relationship with his police partner, Trammell, which can only be destructive as Elias goes into free fall.

Hoffman’s depiction of the Tenderloin district of San Francisco also works terrifically well, as the down at heel, sordid and dangerous backdrop to this violent tale, easily assuming a character of its own.  It’s brilliantly done, and overall a debut that I cannot recommend highly enough.

(With thanks to Grove Atlantic for the ARC)