August 2016 Round Up and Raven’s Book of the Month

_DSC0185 (Common Raven)August has been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster for the Raven, what with one thing and another, and some big decisions are now having to be made in the light of recent events. Consequently, my reading and blogging have been seriously impacted, and this has been quite a light month in terms of books read and reviews posted. I normally manage to read at least three books a week, but have been struggling to get through one! So big apologies for my severely depleted output, my sporadic catching up with social media and the acknowledgement of my fellow bloggers’ excellent posts. Am now in a state of ‘catch-up’, and hopefully there will be a much happier Raven back in the zone. Something good has got to happen soon, right?…

BOOKS READ AND REVIEWED:

James Nally- Dance With The Dead

Rod Reynolds- Black Night Falling

Robert Bailey- Between Black and White

Russel D McLean- And When I Die

Craig Russell- The Quiet Death of Thomas Quaid

Raven’s #20BooksofSummer: the first eight…

Chris Abani- Song For Night

Peter Watts- Echopraxia

Paraic O’Donnell- The Maker of Swans

Cynthia Ozick- The Puttermesser Papers

S. E. Craythorne- How You See Me

Robert Edeson- The Weaver Fish

Diana Rosie- Alberto’s Lost Birthday

David Peace- Tokyo Year Zero

Raven’s Book of the Month:

9781780874883With a lengthy hiatus in this excellent series I was delighted that Lennox has now made a more than welcome reappearance. As I said in my review, Russell perfectly evokes the feel of 1950’s Glasgow, with the shabby, downtrodden air of a city recovering in the aftermath of war, and the incessant need for the criminal underclass to keep a foothold in the economic recovery of the city with the opportunity to make an illegal buck or two. Cut through with the dry wit of the laconic Canadian Lennox, the nod to the hard-boiled genre in terms of dialogue and pace, superb plotting and peopled with a colourful cast of supporting characters, Russell has done it again. If you haven’t discovered this series for yourselves yet, I would urge you to seek them out. Excellent.

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Blog Tour- Rod Reynolds- Black Night Falling

Black Night FallingHaving left Texarkana for the safety of the West Coast, reporter Charlie Yates finds himself drawn back to the South, to Hot Springs, Arkansas, as an old acquaintance asks for his help. This time it’s less of a story Charlie’s chasing, more of a desperate attempt to do the right thing before it’s too late…

The Dark Inside from debut author Rod Reynolds, was based loosely on the events surrounding The Texarkana Moonlight Murders of 1946, where young couples were singled out at a local courting spot and brutally attacked. The Texarkana Phantom, as the killer was dubbed, killed five people and assaulted three more, but evaded apprehension, with the killings stopping as quickly as they had begun. With this as the central premise for the story,  Reynolds took us on an atmospheric, clever, and entirely plausible trip into a small community racked by fear and suspicion. Black Night Falling picks up the story just a few months on from the harrowing events of the first book featuring stoic reporter Charlie Yates, and there is more darkness in store…

Once again, Reynolds completely immerses us in the world of 1940’s America, incorporating insights into the American psyche, and referencing returning servicemen from World War II. Reynolds’ attention to the detail of the period is again completely on song, and the intense heat of his chosen location of Texas shimmers and scorches alongside the emotional intensity of Yates’ troublesome investigation. Particularly effective is Reynolds’ depiction of this small community of Hot Springs, with its local commerce being driven by corrupt local figures, and the mostly illegal activities of gambling and prostitution, allowing him to insinuate real life gangster figures into the plot, that are immediately recognisable to the reader. Also by placing Yates in this inward looking and suspicious community, it allows us to acknowledge for ourselves, the frustration and danger that he encounters in his search for the truth behind his friend’s untimely end.

Charlie Yates, our dogged reporter is once again bestowed with a real core of morality, and again Reynolds makes full use of his  character pivoting between outspoken arrogance to moments of extreme self doubt and emotional vulnerability. As in The Dark Inside, Yates must use all his guile and powers of investigation to navigate his way between local law enforcement, the press, and the mayoral head honcho, assimilating, disregarding, or challenging their versions of events at no mean danger to himself. As much as Yates is fed false leads or incomplete information, we as readers are also constantly questioning the veracity of the information he receives, and playing the who’s the good guy, who’s the bad guy, game as the plot progresses. With Yates being so firmly front and centre of the plot, Reynolds’ cast of supporting characters are something of a conduit or mirror for his actions, but there is a good array of ne’er-do-wells, tarts with hearts, unlikely good guys, and a thoroughly pernicious killer at the heart of the story to keep you hooked. Admittedly, I am still a little unconvinced by the depiction of Yates’ personal life, and the slightly clichéd drawing on this in the plot to manipulate Yates’ actions, however, when book focuses purposefully on Yates’ dogged determination to track a killer and expose corruption, Reynolds keeps a realistic and tight rein of the unfolding plot. With The Dark Inside and Black Night Falling being so closely interlinked, Reynolds does endeavour to reference the first book in the second as Yates’ investigation has the overarching echo and ramifications of previous events, but I would urge you to read both books in quick succession, to fully appreciate the symbiosis of the two books, as sometimes the links between the two lose a little of their power in the reliance on sporadic back story.

When I reviewed The Dark Inside I said I was delighted to hear that there was a sequel in the offing, and more than happy to say that Reynolds has come up trumps again. Read both- you won’t be disappointed.

(With thanks to Faber for the ARC)

 

Catch up with, or continue to follow the blog tour at these excellent sites:

Black Night Falling_blog tour graphic

 

September 2015 Round Up and Raven’s Book of the Month

_DSC0185 (Common Raven)Hurrah! September was relatively free of I.T. gremlins so have managed to catch up a bit with myself. An excellent month with three blog tours- including the now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t Simon Toyne article on Solomon Creed, a review of debut author Rod Reynolds’ The Dark Inside, and a review of The Defenceless the second book from the excellent Kati Hiekkapelto. I’ve travelled far and wide in my crime reading this month, and I’ve also managed to squeeze in a couple of fiction titles too. If my trusty Dodo Pad (which organises my life) is correct, there are three more blog tours scheduled for October, including a debut that is quite simply brilliant, and will knock your collective socks off. Intriguing huh? A good month’s reading and some further treats, as always, lie in store…

Books reviewed this month:

Piero Chiara- The Disappearance of Signora Giulia 

 Alberto Barrera Tyszka- Crimes

Rod Reynolds- The Dark Inside

Hester Young- The Gates of Evangeline

Anthony Horowitz- Trigger Mortis

Kati Hiekkapelto- The Defenceless

Fergus McNeill- Eye Contact

RAVEN’S BOOK OF THE MONTH:

25807823In a break from tradition, I’m awarding my book of the month to a book that I haven’t actually posted a full -length review of. Hey, that’s the way I roll sometimes…

Top honours this month go to Steve Mosby’s I Know Who Did It, which brilliantly reprises elements of his earlier thriller The 50/50 Killer which is still for my money one of the best crime books ever written.

With the suspenseful premise of a woman who appears to have returned from the dead, a detective haunted by the murder of his young son, and the nefarious reach of an old crime on a current investigation, Mosby’s control of the structure of contrasting narratives and plot points is faultless throughout.

Once again Mosby circumvents the shallowness of some in the genre, by really digging down into the turmoil of the human psyche, with two of his police protagonists having experienced tremendous loss, and provides a thoughtful and empathetic study of life in the grip of grief, and the healing process that follows. However, despite this deeper theme to the book, he never loses sight of the need to construct a clever and intriguing thriller, that will bewitch the reader, providing more than one surprise, an utterly unexpected denouement in the creepiest of settings, and interweaving some interesting perspectives on life, death, grief, psychological disturbance, religion, and the much debated theory of nature vs nurture. Meaty issues, violence, and a well realised blend of police procedural and psychological thriller. Highly recommended, and quite deservedly my book of the month.

 

Blog Tour- Rod Reynolds- The Dark Inside- Review

51zZxD6mTsL__SX324_BO1,204,203,200_It’s always an interesting reading experience seeing an author run with the facts of a true unsolved crime, and carefully construct their own interpretation of who may have been responsible, and their psychological motivation for seemingly senseless attacks. The Dark Inside from debut author Rod Reynolds, is based loosely on the events surrounding The Texarkana Moonlight Murders of 1946, where young couples were singled out at a local courting spot and brutally attacked. The Texarkana Phantom, as the killer was dubbed, killed five people and assaulted three more, but evaded apprehension, with the killings stopping as quickly as they had begun. With this as the central premise for the story,  Reynolds takes us on an atmospheric, clever, and entirely plausible trip into a small community racked by fear and suspicion.

The real stand out character of the piece is Charlie Yates, the beleaguered and harried journalist who finds himself sent on a fool’s mission by his eminently dislikeable boss, and feeling forced to demonstrate his instinctive journalist’s curiosity and nous in order to save his job in New York. Yates finds himself at odds with pretty much everyone he encounters as an interloper and suspicious of not only his motives but by what he uncovers below the surface of the more ‘respectable’ folk of Texarkana. Reynolds bestows Yates with a real core of morality, unusual in itself for a press journalist, and I like the way his character pivots between outspoken arrogance to moments of extreme self doubt and emotional vulnerability, shaped by events in his personal life. As he navigates his way around the local press, law enforcement officers, and the mayor in search of the killer, and evading the less than honourable members of these factions, Yates needs his wits about him to get to the truth. I was slightly less convinced by the relationship he forms with Lizzie, as it seemed a little forced in the overall narrative, but his essential moral fibre, doggedness, and sometimes foolhardy actions with which his character is balanced, made up for this slight concern.

Screen-Shot-2013-04-17-at-7_38_06-PMReynolds is to be admired for taking a leap of faith, especially as a debut novelist, to write something so outside of his normal experience, and equally as a Brit setting his book across the water in a community where the ghosts of this crime still loom in the shared consciousness. As an outsider looking in, and this being one of my ‘favourite’ unsolved crime mysteries, the setting and atmosphere of Texarkana felt incredibly authentic, and as I listened to a selection of Texas blues artists whilst reading this, the cadence and rhythm of the book worked perfectly. With this book comparisons have been made to Daniel Woodrell and Tom Franklin, and I would say that in terms of the meticulousness of the setting and period atmosphere this is justified. Add in the easy style of dialogue, reminiscent of an author such as Ace Atkins, and this book will tick many boxes for the American crime fiction fan. Reynold’s careful construction of a viable and believable conclusion to this famous case also holds water. Obviously it would be remiss of me to go to deeply into the culprit(s) but, suffice to say, Reynolds has not made the mistake of going for a too outlandish conclusion at odds with how the story has built up, which was gratifying to see, and which outweighed the slightly (in my opinion) ‘chocolate box’ ending.

All in all an intelligent and atmospheric recreation of some very dark and brutal events indeed, and more than happy to see that a sequel is in the offing. A highly recommended debut.

Keep an eye on the dates below for more on The Dark Inside

RR USE THIS (With thanks to Faber for the reading copy of The Dark Inside)

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

_DSC0185 (Common Raven)Started off the month at quite a pace, and more than happy that despite some recurrent issues with my technology, managed to post ten reviews. However, thanks to the blip with the I.T. (yes, I did try turning it off- and back on again) there are another couple of reviews in reserve for September posting. With three blog tours on the horizon for September for Simon Toyne- Solomon Creed, Rod Reynolds- The Dark Inside and Kati Hiekkapelto- The Defenceless, and a stack of new releases,  I’m also going to try and get to a lovely little pile of books from authors I discovered in May at CrimeFest. Fingers crossed. It’s going to be a busy month that’s for sure!

Books read and reviewed:

Neely Tucker- Murder D.C. (www.crimefictionlover.com)

Jason Hewitt- The Dynamite Room

Simon Sylvester- The Visitors

 S. Williams- Tuesday Falling

M. O. Walsh- My Sunshine Away

Catherine Hunt- Someone Out There

Jax Miller- Freedom’s Child

Doug Johnstone- The Jump

Olen Steinhauer- All The Old Knives (www.crimefictionlover.com)

Ava Marsh- Untouchable (www.crimefictionlover.com)

RAVEN’S BOOK OF THE MONTH

tuesInterestingly this has been a month of real highs and lows but there are three books worthy of another mention before the grand unveiling. I absolutely loved the fresh, vibrant and unique debut Tuesday Falling by S. Williams, and have already been recommending it to colleagues and customers alike. Mixing the hidden history of life below London, with cutting edge technology, this was a real winner.  Pacey plot, great characters and some real “well, I never knew that” moments.

I was bewitched by Olen Steinhauer’s All The Old Knives with it’s seemingly familiar settingall-the-old-knives-978144729574701 of an intimate dinner for two, but by the clever use of shifting timelines in a fairly compact form, revealed much more beneath it’s surface, in a twisting tale of CIA chicanery and double-dealing. An intelligent and compelling thriller.

The-Jump-Doug-JohnstoneAlso, Doug Johnstone’s The Jump, which could certainly feature in my end of year round-up, due to the emotional intensity and sensitivity with which he draws his main character, and the mesmeric quality of the prose. Powerful writing, which would put many contemporary fiction writers in the shade.

 

CJZBS7gVAAAmIfbHowever, top honour this month goes to Jax Miller- Freedom’s Child– with its edgy subject matter, a brilliant main protagonist in the form of the eponymous Freedom, and for demonstrating all that the Raven likes best about gritty American fiction. Lean and lyrical prose, social comment, a sublime use of location, and a book that resonates long after the reading of it. Loved it. Loved it. Loved it.