Monday, December 26, 2022

2023 Book Reviews

  My index of all interviews of the last ten years up until 2018 is here

My list of all 2018 reads is here

My list of 10ish favorite books read in 2018 is here

My list of 2019 reads is here 

My list of 2020 books is here

 My list of 2021 books is here

 My list of 2022 books is here 

Book #1 - They Called Us Enemy by George Takei. In this graphic memoir, Takei, an author, actor and activist, tells about the experiences he and his family
endured during World War II, living in American concentration camps. He was one of 120,000 Japanese Americans imprisoned by the U.S. government during that time.

When he was only 4 Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. In brutal detail, Takei writes about the steps the family had to go through in order to even
get to the concentration camp not to mention the problems once they arrived. At one point, Takei writes, "Years later, the trauma of those experiences continued to haunt me."
This is honest, engaging, compelling writing and the kind of book I think everyone should read to be aware of this tragedy and never forget what happened. I give it a 9.

Book #2 - The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb. I saw this on a top ten list for crime
novel debuts for the year and decided to try it out. It had a great, exciting start as the reader
learns that Ray, a talented sought after violinist, has had his $10 million Stradivarius
stolen just days before a major musical competition, with a ransom note left asking for $5 million. This prompts so many questions: Who took it? Why?  When did they take it? I would have loved if they had stayed at that point in the story and answered those questions, which would have made for a great thriller.

Instead, for about the next 150 pages the book delves into Ray's backstory, growing up unhappy with a difficult childhood. He loved music from an early age but all his life his
mother told him to quit that pursuit and pursue a real "career." Ray, who is black, is subjected to loads of racism from all directions, especially in the classical
music world. The book lags in this section before eventually getting back to the kidnapping of his violin. The book is written by a black violinist. Despite my
criticisms it is a good debut novel that shows promise. I give it a 7. 

Book #3 - Fairy Tale by Stephen King. I heard raves about this book and I like some of his books so I decided to read it and I am glad I did.  The book is about Charlie Reade, 17, a good student and a good athlete. Charlie lost his mom at 7 and his
dad soon became an alcoholic, but he was later able to stop  with the help of AA.

Charlie meets and helps an aging and reclusive man named Howard Bowdich and his dog, Radar. Charlie and Howard becomes close. When Howard dies he leaves his house and much gold to Charlie.
Howard's home has a shed from which weird noises emerge. That shed becomes very important as it, Howard reveals to Charlie in a tape recorded as he was dying, is a portal to another world.
Most of the 598 page- book focuses on what happens when Charlie, at Howard's urging, enters and explores this portal.
It is a fascinating world with good fighting evil, with two suns instead of one, with dungeons and fights to the death.
King's very descriptive writing makes the reader able to imagine such a place, one where a magic sundial can turn back time.
A film adaptation is already in the works. I give this an 8.

Book #4 - The Drifter by Nicholas Petrie. This is the first in Petrie's series about Peter Ash. After returning home after fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
Ash has a problem, which he calls "white static," a claustrophobia that he feels especially when inside buildings. When he learns that a friend from the
Marines has committed suicide Peter goes to help the man's wife with needed home repairs. While taking apart her porch, before building her a new one, he finds a
suitcase with $400,000,as well as explosives. Whose money and explosives it it? The wife says she has no idea but is she lying? What was someone planning to do
with explosives?
Ash starts trying to find answers. Soon Ash notices a car following him and watching the house. Also, someone takes shots at him before Ash shoots him dead.
What exactly has he gotten himself into it? Petrie keeps the adrenaline going throughout the whole book and it's very well done with interesting
characters and some good plot twists. I give this an 8 and plan to read the other books in this series.

For his book, Tear It Down, I interviewed the author here:

Book #5 - Number One Walking: My Life in the Movies and Other Diversions by Steve Martin. This illustrated memoir (with illustrations by New Yorker cartoonist Harry Bliss) is fascinating,
funny and clever. Martin tells charming stories about his film career and shares many great anecdotes about cast mates and celebrities he has met, including Paul McCartney, Diane Keaton, Robin Williams and Chevy Chase.  More than half of the book is a collection of New Yorker–style cartoons that Martin and Bliss did together.

I'm a big fan of Martin and this is a great addition to his body of work. He also writes of his decision to stop making movies, his return to standup via his work with Martin Short and the
awesome television series Only Murders in the Building.

This book is a great follow up from his excellent 2008 memoir, Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life, which goes into more detail about his stand up career and why, after much success, he decided to switch to a movie career. I give this book an 8.

Book #6 - Karin Slaughter - Fallen. This is part of the author's excellent series about Georgia Bureau of Investigations Special Agent Will Trent although his one is more centered on  his partner, Faith Mitchell. As the book start the reader follows with Mitchell as she goes to her mother's home
to see her mom and get Faith's infant daughter. She arrives to find three men, one already dead. She fights with and kills the other two before they can kill others. What she does not find there is
her mother, Evelyn. The cops arrive demanding to know why Mitchell didn't exit the house when ordered to do so. So we learn what happens to Faith while also trying to figure out where her mom, a former police officer, was taken and why.  Her mother is a retired Atlanta police Captain that was in charge of a drug task force which Will investigated and most of the task force,  except Evelyn, were busted for corruption.

I'm a big fan of Slaughter's work and I'm not alone. One of my favorite crime writers, Michael Connelly, has said that Slaughter's books are "crime fiction at its finest" and Tess Gerritsen said she is
"one of the boldest thriller writers working today.

This is another gripping, adrenaline-filled thriller by Slaughter. I give it an 8. Speaking of Slaughter, there's a new television series on ABC that's based  on the Will Trent series and I like what I've seen so far.

Book #7 - Secret Identity by Alex Segura. This is truly an original, hard-edged story about life in the comics industry written by Segura, who uses his expertise as a comics creator to flesh out the story and keep it as accurate as possible. Segura also loves noir fiction and it shows.

It is 1975 and the comic book industry is having tough times. But Carmen Valdez, an assistant at Triumph Comics, which is not as well known or popular as Marvel or DC, is less concerned with the industry problems than she is on finally realizing her dream of writing a superhero book. One of the Triumph writers picks her brain to get her help to create a new character which they call "The Lethal Lynx," the company's first female hero. She is promised credit on the comic books.

Two things then happen: First, she sees the finished product and she is given no credit then, second, when she goes to confront the writer to ask about  this she finds him dead, murdered. Carmen tries to figure out what happened, becoming akin to a 1970s sleuth in private eye fiction. It doesn't help
that the comic book she co-created is a runaway success. Meanwhile, an old friend has moved to her city and is acting strangely and, separately, other people Carmen cares about get hurt and the suspect is unknown.

This is an excellent book with interesting characters, good dialogue and some plot twists. Crime Reads named this one of the ten best novels of 2022. I give it an 8.

Book #8 - Claire Dewitt and the Bohemian Highway by Sara Gran. This is the second book in a series that began with the excellent Claire DeWittand the City of the Dead. The irresistible Claire DeWitt considers herself the world’s greatest private investigator and she is quite different from the norms of other detectives in past books, which is part of the fun. Part of what makes her both unorthodox and successful at what she does is she uses the I Ching, omens, prophetic dreams and mind-expanding drugs to help her solve cases

The author is critically praised on the book back cover by some of my favorite authors, the best blurbs being Alafair Burke: "A cool blend of Nancy Drew and Sid Vicious, Gran has pulled the traditional female sleuth into the twenty-first century" and Laura Lippman saying her series "reminds me why I fell in love with the genre." The writing is as original as the character and there are some great plot twists and excellent dialogue and characters.

Claire's ex-boyfriend, Paul, is found dead, murdered, and there are no suspects. It may have been a botched burglary. Claire decides to investigate. There are plenty of possible suspects including his wife, Lydia - the two have been unhappy with each other and both have had affairs while married. Claire interviews everyone, follows even the most obscure clue.

The book alternates between that case and one in the 1980s when one of her friends, Chloe, goes missing and Claire and her friend, Tracey, go looking  all over for her. Tracy and Claire were teenage detectives together. As they travel around they encounter  much misogyny and drug use.

Both cases are fascinating and I won't say more about how either case is solved for fear of spoilers.  I give the book an 8 and plan to continue  reading this series.   

Book #9 - Dark Sky by CJ Box. This is book #21 of Box's series about Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett. In this one Pickett is assigned by the governor to help guide a special guest while they go elk hunting. The special guest is a tech guru who created and runs a social media network akin to facebook. He's the type of guy who posts on his social network all about his thoughts and actions, and plans to do so during his trek.

Meanwhile, the guru, nicknamed Steve-2 (after Steve Jobs), has some opponents, including
a local family whose daughter was bullied online, including at his social media company, Confab. The family had asked the company to stop the bullying and help her. They did nothing and she committed suicide. They want revenge and they may get it as they hunt down Steve2 in the mountains.

Do they catch him? Do they kill him? You really thought I'd answer those spoiler-ish questions? It's a good book with lots of the parts of the series that keeps people like me returning again and again to this series, namely good characters and great plot twists. I give it an 8.

Books #10 and #11 - Peter Hook - Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division and Substance: Inside New Order. Hook, aka Hooky, was bassist and co-founder of Joy Division and New Order. Unknown Pleasures is the name of Joy Division's debut album. In this excellent memoir he focuses almost solely on post-punk band Joy Division with a few references to New Order and other bands Joy Division
played with. When Joy Division's lead singer, Ian Curtis, 23, famously killed himself in 1980, the day before the bands first North American tour, the rest of the band, while in grief, moved on to become New Order, which became a much more famous band, partly by being more dance oriented and uplifting than Joy Division. I love both bands so I found a lot to like here, from the stories of the creation of Joy Division to the anecdotes and tales about band members and others to his insight in what all transpired and what songs worked and why. He goes into detail about the seizures Curtis had, sometimes on stage, due to being epileptic. And kicks himself, blames himself, a few times for not paying better attention to the lyrics Curtis wrote, which might have provided a warning of Curtis' emotional state.

In the introduction to the New Order book Hook writes, "If Joy Division defined my life, New Order shaped it: a fascinating story of sex, drugs and (indie) rock'n'roll; of art, money and crass stupidity, blind faith and amazing good luck - backed by a soundtrack of truly great songs written by wonderful musicians."

Substance is the name of a great New Order compilation album. Hook takes the reader from the creation of the band to its increasing popularity to when he decided to leave the band in 2007 and explains why he did so.. Again, great stories that provide insight into the band and  the music. I loved hearing about the creation of some of my favorite New Order songs like Born Monday, True Faith and Bizarre Love Triangle. After describing in both how often he was getting drunk there is a good chapter about him swearing off drink and becoming sober.

In both books Hook does a track by track analysis of each album he played on.
The second book (720 pages) is much longer than the first (370 pages) but then Joy Division was only around for 4 years while New Order has been around for 43 years and is still going, albeit
currently without him. I'm also planning to read soon Bernard Sumner's memoir in which he focuses on both bands. Sumner is the lead singer of New Order and was in Joy Division as well. It will be interesting to compare their thoughts especially since Hook and Sumner did not get along and that is
part of why Hook left New Order.

I give both books an 8. I found both books best read while listening to the band's music. 

Book #12 - The Lady with the Gun Asks the Questions: The Ultimate Miss Phryne Fisher Story Collection by Kerry Greenwood. As a fan of the Phryne Fisher character and series I happily checked this book out of the library. The book features 17 short stories about the 1920s' most elegant sleuth who lives in St Kilda, Melbourne. I liked all the stories. If you are a fan you should get this. If you are not a fan, yet but want to get a sense of the series style, this is an easy way to do that. I give it an 8.

Book #13 - Dwyer Murphy, An Honest Living. I decided to give this book a try because CrimeReads named it one of the ten best books of 2022.  Murphy is also the editor in chief of CrimeReads. When I picked up the book it helped to see praise from Don Winslow and Walter Mosley, with the latter
writing, "A sublime trip through a city teeming with professional idlers, hustlers, poets, politicians, insurance scammers and real-estate developers."

The neo-noir book is set in New York City in the mid-2000s. The protagonist is an unnamed attorney who quit a prestigious law firm,  preferring to work solo, picking up odd jobs from a variety of clients. He gets hoodwinked then pulled into a complicated crime of obsession involving an relationship between a reclusive author and her bookseller husband.

The stylish book full of interesting characters is an impressive debut. I give it an 8.

#14 - Robert Crais - Racing the Light. I love Crais' long-running series about Elvis Cole and Joe Pike. Both are veterans, now working as private eyes in Southern California, living by a code of sorts.
Elvis is hired by a mom wanting him to find and bring back her son, Josh Shoe, a controversial podcaster. Elvis soon realizes others are trying to find Josh too, as well as his adult film star friend, and they are not playing nice. Elvis asks Joe to help and he does.

As usual Crais' books have lots of action, plot twists and Cole is as witty as ever. I give this an 8. For what it's worth Crais got his start writing for such shows as Hill Street Blues, Cagney & Lacey, L.A. Law and Miami Vice.
Here's an old interview I did with Robert Crais:

#15 - David S. Reiss, M*A*S*H: The Exclusive, Inside Story Of Tv's Most Popular Show. MASH is one of my favorite television shows of all time, and one of the most popular and influential of all time, and so I was thrilled at the chance to learn more about how it all came together, what the actors were really like, the stories of the scripts and the characters, etc.
The book provides all of that and more. My favorite part is a collection of long interviews with all of the major actors and producers. I give it an 8.

#16 - Greg Graffin, Punk Paradox. Graffin is the singer of Bad Religion, my favorite current punk band. He writes about growing up in a family with a divorce, moving from Milwaukee to Los Angeles and what led him to get into punk music.

I read with particular fascination his descriptions of Bad Religion's early days when they were finding their footing. There were also issues when Graffin was split between his duties with the band, to his new wife and to his academic work in Cornell. Graffin has a phd in  zoology, which meant at times they could perform mostly on his summer breaks. He received his bachelors and masters degrees in geology in UCLA. He has an extinct bird named after him.

Graffin writes about how he come up with song lyrics, which are known for being articulate and
politically charged, and are one of my main attractions to the band. I also like their three-part vocal harmonies.  There's also a good discussion and analysis of why fans accuse their favorite bands of being "sellouts."

This incredibly influential and popular band, who I was lucky enough to see live back when I lived in the Los Angeles area, is great and so is the book. I give it a 9. 

 #17 - Katie Gutierrez - More Than You Ever Know - When I heard what this book is about I was hooked, I knew I had to read it. It didn't hurt that it was  on the Crime Reads list of best books of 2022.

In 1985 Lore Rivera marries a man in Mexico City despite being married already to a man in Laredo, Texas, with whom she has twin sons. Things go sideway and one husband kills the other. In 2017, with Lore's husband still in jail, a struggling true crime writer named Cassie comes across information on
his story and, seeing an opportunity for a good story, if not a book, she wants a question answered, namely: Why would Rivera risk everything for a second marriage? Cassie tracks down  Lore to ask this and other questions but the more they talk the more Cassie realizes if she writes this story she may
unintentionally uproot this woman's quiet life as secrets would be exposed including that some accepted facts of the murder are wrong.  Meanwhile, we also learn about Cassie's life and her own secrets, including an alcoholic father who used to beat her mother.

This debut novel is a great concept for a book and I love it, especially with all the plot twists. I also like that the story goes against the norm which is that it's often men living double lives, not women. I also like that there are many references to Austin and some of its establishments - that's always fun to read.
I give it an 8.

#18 - Blackwater Falls by Ausma Zehanat Khan. This is the first book in a new series for Khan. I really enjoyed her prior series, the Esa Khattak/Rachel Getty mystery series, which had great characters, insightful stories and excellent plotting. Khan's background is impressive and notable, starting with a Ph.D. in International Human Rights Law with a research specialization in military
intervention and war crimes in the Balkans. She practiced immigration law in Toronto. She was also the editor-in-chief of Muslim Girl magazine.

With a new book and series come fascinating new protagonists: Detectives Inaya Rahman and Lt. Waqas Seif. For months girls from immigrant communities have been disappearing in the Colorado town of Blackwater Falls, but the local sheriff is slow to act. The calls for justice
grow louder when the dead body of a star student and refugee - the Syrian teenager Razan
Elkader - is positioned deliberately as the Madonna in a mosque. Our protagonists
are assigned to solve her murder and while doing so they encounter links to the other missing girls. But Rahman thinks Seif may be trying to obstruct the investigation so she turns to two female colleagues for help.

With insight and compassion Khan writes about racial tension, police corruption and violence. This book, which has some great plot twists, is a great start for a new series. I'm hooked. I give this an 8.

#19 -Chris Hauty - Storm Rising. This is the third book in a series about Hayley Chill. The first two books in this series about Hayley, an intelligence operative, were amazing thrillers and I put on my seatbelt as I started the book and vroom I was off. As usual all kinds of crazy events
happen around Hayley but she's good at thinking fast. At one point she goes back to the house of her recently killed father, and finds something hidden: a ciphered document.

Through the document, and with permission from her handlers, she learns about a scary subculture of white supremacy within the United States military. She also is shocked to find a related conspiracy to bring about the secession of several states from the country. She must stop this conspiracy before a new Civil War can happen.

This is another adrenaline rush of a book by Hauty, a screenwriter. The book has positive blurbs from C.J. Box, Jack Carr, Nick Petrie and Karin  Slaughter, among others. I give it an 8.

#20 - Lee Child and Andrew Child, No Plan B. This is the most recent thriller in Lee Child's amazing series about Jack Reacher. The last three books have
been co-authored by Lee Child and his younger brother, Andrew Child. Andrew Child also writes under the name Andrew Grant. Lee has announced plans to retire,
with his brother taking over writing the series, but has not given an actual date when that will happen. Meanwhile, they write them together. There
have been some minor changes since Andrew Child has started co-authoring the books, differences in descriptions, dialogue, etc.

This novel begins with two unconnected events: Reacher witnesses a woman being murdered while a young man is running away from what sounds like an awful
family. As is often the case with Reacher novels he begins investigating, partly using his skills from his years as military police, and he finds
another suspicious death. He teams up with the widow of that second death and begins his quest to right wrongs and if that means defeating enemies sent his
way so be it.

The two plots do eventually connect in ways I'm not going to share and Reacher begins to get some answers about what exactly is going on. For this one the Childs' come up with original ideas in addition
to developing interesting characts and have some good plot twists. I give this exciting thriller an 8.

#21 Samantha Allen - Patricia Wants to Cuddle. I've been trying to read a wider variety of titles and authors this year and this is an example of
that. It was on Literary Hub's list of 38 favorite books of 2022. This is the fictional debut of Allen, a GLAAD Award-winning author of Real Queer America.

This creative and clever novel is about a reality television dating game that is being filmed on a mysterious island,
complete with wild personalities and back-stabbing by the four female contestants. But there is someone else on the
island who is also a woman, Patricia, and she, well, she just wants to cuddle with someone. Oh and Patricia is Sasquatch
so when she gets the attention of the show's participants things quickly get weird and even more fun.  

Or as Molly Odintz of CrimeReads, who used to work for Bookpeople in Austin, writes: "The lesbian Sasquatch novel you've always wanted... this is the most
badass book imaginable."

I think I wore a smile the whole time I read this book. I give it an 8.5. 

#22 - More Fun in the New World: The Unmaking and Legacy of L.A. Punk by John Doe with Tom DeSavia and friends. This is a sequel of
sorts to the amazing book Under the Big Black Sun, also by Doe, of the band X, and DeSavia. The first
book was a success, critically and commercially, and it focused on the punk scene in the Los Angeles area up to the year 1982.

As with the first book, the second consists of chapters written artists and musicians who were part of the L.A. punk scene, including
Henry Rollins of Black Flag, Angelo Moore of Fishbone, Mike Ness of Social Distortion, Dave Alvin of the Blasters, members of X, Keith
Morris of the Circle Jerks, etc.

This book covers 1982 to 1987, a time when some bands of the L.A. punk scene became popular nationally and, in some
cases, internationally. I grew up in Southern California and started attending punk shows around 1986 and buying punk music a few years earlier.

I have always been a fan of Doe as a songwriter and singer of the great, influential band X so it didn't take much for me to also be impressed by his
work in this book. Both book titles are also the names of albums by X.

I give the book a 9. Best read while listening to some of the punk music mentioned in the book.
As part of my education and entertainment about that L.A. punk era I also watched the classic, influential documentary Decline of Western Civilization which
focuses on punk music and artists in Los Angeles. The documentary by Penelope Spheeris is quite well done.

#23 - Lisa Gardner - Look For Me - This is part of Gardner's series about Sergeant Detective D. D. Warren. This is the first book I have read by Gardner and I liked it. In fact I liked it so much that I next read two books of hers with some of the same characters. This novel is about a family in Boston who are gunned down in their own home. The family's daughter, Roxanna Baez, 16, goes missing with the family dogs right before the shootings and the cops are not sure if she ran away to escape the violence or was kidnapped or was responsible for the violence or for some other reason.

Flora Dane enters the picture. Flora was a survivor of a kidnapping by a rapist in a story told in the book Find Her, an earlier book in the series. Flora runs a group for survivors, helping them adjust to life after their personal crisis ends. Roxanna had met with one of the group members before her
family was killed. This leaves D.D. and Flora both trying to find Roxanna but with different agendas.

The book has lots of great plot twists and interesting characters. I did not see the end coming. I give it an 8. After reading this I decided to go back and read Find Her, as I found Flora a fascinating character. I read it and it was also quite good and very thrilling. I also read and liked  When You See Me, which is a more recent novel featuring Flora, D.D. Warren and FBI agent Kimberly Quincy as they look into new bodies found who may have been put there years ago by Flora's former captor.

#24 Danya Kukafka- Notes On An Execution - There have been many crime novels written about a man near execution, and I have read several,  but this one is unique in that it provides perspective into convicted murderer Ansel Packer's life from three people who knew him well.

First, we hear from his mother, Lavender, who abandoned he and his younger brother while they were infants to keep them away from their physically abusive father. Second, we hear from Hazel, whose twin sister was married to him before leaving  him. Hazel saw his rage and believed he could harm someone. Third, we hear from Saffy, who first got to know Ansel when they were in the same boarding house together and she discovered he liked to kill animals in their  yard. Years later, when a girl she knew from that boarding house is one of three women killed she decides to become
a New York State police officer to work homicides and, possibly, figure out who killed her friend and two others.

In addition, of course, we hear Ansel's perspective and as the book progresses, alternating between characters, the hours toward Ansel's execution come closer. This is an impressive well-paced book, made much richer by these different perspectives,  and it's no surprise it is on CrimeReads list of the best books of 2022.

Two authors I like and respect, Paula Hawkins and Meg Abbott, have blurbs for the book, Hawkins writing, "Provocative, intelligent, thrilling and moving." Abbott writes, "Spellbinding and beautifully written (the book) is an irresistable, unbearably tense  thriller; a poignant, deeply compassionate tale of resilience, and a vital intervention in the way we talk about violent crime, its endless reverberations, and foremost its survivors."

I give this book a rare 9. The author previously wrote a best-seller called Girl in Snow, which I have not read but may go back and do so.

#25 - The Great Man Theory by Teddy Wayne. I've heard good things about Wayne and, particularly, about his book The Love Song of Jonny Valentine. When I saw this new book at the library I decided to give it a try and I am glad I did.

Paul is not the most likeable character and you'll see why. He is a self-described "curmudgeonly crank" cataloging his resentments of the priorities of modern life in a book called The Luddite Manifesto. Outraged by lots of things, but especially the government, he will not stop trying to improve the world
in his own way, to better the future for his young daughter.

As you might guess, those in his life are not fans of Paul's scolding, including his daughter who is growing more distant from him. Students in his freshman comp classes have grown even less interested in what he has to say and his few remaining friends seem ready to give up on him.  Characters
mention he looks happiest when complaining about things. To make up for lost income he moves in with his elderly grandmother and takes a second job as a ride-share driver. When he realizes his mom loves Fox News and he predictably begins scolding her, I began to feel for this cranky guy who just can't catch a break.

Soon he has connived a way to go on a date with a woman who is a producer on his mom's favorite Fox News show, who he  "accidentally" picked up twice as a customer for his ride share job and  they start dating. He starts work on a plan to right the world's wrongs. And that's all I'm going to say
so I can avoid any spoilers.

As a reader I alternated between liking him for being honest with his feelings and disliking him for offending others, or maybe it's the not caring who he offends, be it his daughter or mom, that bothers me. The book is funny in parts and has good insights into our culture.  I enjoyed this book
and am going to go back and read Jonny Valentine. I give this book an 8.

#26 - Turtles All The Way Down by John Green. I have been going through a John Green phase. When I worked in a middle school I read a bunch of Y.A. and Green was my favorite author of the genre. I read The Fault In Our Stars, Paper Towns, Looking For Alaska and some of his others. This week I watched the film versions of Fault and Paper Towns (as usual, the books are better than the movies) and read one of his less popular books, Turtles All the Way Down, which I had never got around to before.
I knew it explored some of the author's own mental health issues and I evaded that before but decided to face it head on this time.

The novel is about Aza, 16, and his best friend, Daisy. When a billionaire who is the father of one of Aza's friend goes missing and there is a  $100,000 reward, Aza and Daisy start investigating. Aza reconnects with the son, Davis, but  Davis struggles with their friendship and possible relationship because he is not sure if Aza is into him just to try to get the reward or if its genuine affection. It's the latter.

Aza has OCD and anxiety and I like how Green, who also has OCD and anxiety, addresses this, as well as the conversations about loss between Aza and Davis since both have lost a parent, Aza having lost his dad and Davis having lost his mom.  Daisy writes Star Wars fan fiction leading to fun discussions of the fan fiction world. While reading about some of those issues was difficult, it's still quite entertaining and well done. I give it an 8.5.

#27 - The Bullet That Missed by Richard Osman. This is the third book in the hilarious,
creative mystery series about the Thursday Murder Club. All three of the books are gems.

For this new one, the group is back together, working on a decades-old unsolved murder
case, involving a TV news reporter who was investigating a financial scam that
brought in 10 million in three years. She arranged to meet with an unknown
source and then disappeared for a few hours and the next thing known, according to cameras,
is her in a car plunging over a cliff. Somehow her body is never found.

Both the club and the police are trying to solve the case. Meanwhile, Elizabeth, one of the four regulars,
gets kidnapped for actions that happened in the prior book and she is faced with
the question of kill or be killed, in this case the person she would need to kill
is the former head of the Leningrad KGG. So, yes, lots of good twists and turns and
mysteries solved by all the likeable cast of characters, including a few new ones.  

I think I was smiling while reading the whole book, the books are that much fun to read. I thought it a nice touch that the author, who has famously
hosted at least one British tv game show, wrote a few scenes about a tv game show. I give it an 8.

#28 - Noir by Christopher Moore. This is the first in a series of books about Sammy "Two Toes" Tiffin. I have read a few of Moore's books and they are consistently inventive, creative and funny. This parody of noir is no exception. The book jacket describes it as "Think Raymond Chandler meets Men in Black with more than a dash of the Looney Tunes All Stars. It's all very, very Noir. It's all very, very Christopher Moore."

As the book begins Sammy, a bartender in post-World War II in San Francisco, is doing his job when
a dame, a comely blonde named Stilton, walks in. She is a war widow. They get up to all kinds of fun and mischief and start dating The book's opening paragraph, after the prologue, announces her arrival thus: "She had the kind of legs that kept her butt from resting on her shoes — a size-eight dame in a size-six dress and every mug in the joint was rooting for the two sizes to make a break for it."

Meanwhile, there's a suspicious flying object spotted near Mountain Rainer in Washington state. This is followed by a mysterious plane crash in the area of Rosewell. Oh, and part of the book is narrated by a snake who kills one of the characters. So not your traditional noir mystery.

Noir has excellent fleshed out characters, great plot twists and excellent writing. I give it a 8.5.

The second book in the series, Razzmatazz, is also clever and good, as it brings back the main characters from Noir with a new story with  some great plot twists and plenty more laughs. This time around someone is killing women who work at drag king clubs and the police seem more
interesting in shutting down the clubs than trying to find and catch the person. Sammy and Stilton both know some of the victims. Sammy is asked to investigate and does so, as does Stilton. Also, this time one of the narrators is a rain dragon, who is part of the non-traditional noir story.

This time we get this killer of an opening paragraph, after the prologue: "When we pulled up to Jimmy's Joynt on Pier 29 the doorman was beating a skinny guy in a tux with a black rubber dildo the length of a Louisville Slugger and the diameter of a soup can, hitting him only in the soft parts - the thigh, the shoulder, the caboose - so each blow sounded like a butcher smacking a fat ham. I give this one an 8.

#29 - The Collector by Anne Mette Hancock. This is the second book in the #1 bestselling Danish crime series Kaldan and Scháfer, the first I have read of it. If this book is any indication the first book must also be excellent, as will the rest of the series.

As the book starts it's realized that Lukas, 10, has disappeared, last seen at his school. Lukas has a peculiar obsession with pareidolia— a phenomenon that makes him see faces in random things. We the readers follow both the police, but also  journalists, as they seek answers.

The case gets a big break when Lukas' jacket is found and DNA on it points to Thomas Strand, an ex-soldier suffering from severe PTSD. But by the time the police get to Strand's home he has been shot dead.

It's a fascinating well-told story with lots of interesting characters and good plot twists. I give it an 8.

I liked the Collector so much I proceeded to read the first book in the series, The Corpse Flower, which was also great, won some mystery awards and debuted at #1 on the Danish bestseller charts. In addition to being quite a good, riveting story it establishes the main characters for the series. It's quite an impressive debut. Like many Danish crime stories both bookw are a bit on the dark side.

#30 - Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson. I am a big fan of Kate Atkinson's books, especially
her series about Jackson Brodie. This book, one of Crime Reads 10 best books of
2022, is a stand alone set in 1926.

Nellie Coker, matriarch and nightclub proprietor, has just been released from a six month jail sentence.
She has six children and runs multiple businesses which are, as the New York Times puts it in its book
review: "jazzy dens of iniquity." Nellie, Atkinson has said, is based on Kate Meyrick, who was known as
the "Night Club Queen."

Nellie and her children's movements are monitored by police inspector John Frobisher. When
a librarian and former combat nurse named Gwendolen Kelling is approached by a friend
desperately trying to find her missing teenage daughter and the daughter's friend
who have moved to London, Kelling mvoves to London and approaches Frobisher for help. Their investigation leads them to Coker's
nightclubs. Meanwhile, are girls going missing or are they being murdered? Sorry, I can't answer that as it would be a spoiler.

While I found it hard at times to keep track of so many characters this book made me decide to check
out more of her stand-alone novels. I give this excellent book an 8.5. As Hillary
Mantel wrote, Atkinson is a "novelist at the top of her game."

#31 - The Beastie Boys Book by The Beastie Boys. I've always been a fan of these guys though I can't say I bought more than two of their albums. The group is made up of three guys and one of them, Adam Yauch, died in 2002 and the group disbanded.

This book is the two remaining Beastie Boys telling their story with many fun digressions
along the way as well as pieces about the group by novelist Jonathan Franzen and other writers and musical artists. I particularly liked the awesome Amy Poehler reviewing their videos and a photo
essay by director Spike Jonze about making the videos "Sure Shot" and "Sabotage" with the guys.

At 571 pages it looks intimidating but I checked out a bunch of Beastie Boys cds from the library and started reading and listening. I found it all fascinating. I give it a 8. A must-read for Beastie Boys fans and still worth reading for those who can't tell a Beastie Boy from a Beatle.

As part of my reseach into the Beastie Boys I picked up a dvd collection of their music videos, some of which were quite good. I especially like the videos  made by Spike Jonze. I also picked up a dvd called the Beastie Boys: The Complete Story, an unauthorized biography. This was underwhelming, not containing anythingnot in the book. Avoid the unauthorized biography but revisit those videos

#32 - Tomorrow And Tomorrow And Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin. This engaging novel is about two brilliant friends that become
creative partners on a video game design project. Before they even graduate from college they have designed a blockbuster
of a game called Ichigo, making them succesful and rich. Not all is rosy as they disagree on things like business decisions.

The book, which spans a 30-year period, looks at issues including identity, disability,
failure, our need to love and be loved and the redemptive possibilites in play. I particularly enjoyed the inside look, albeit fictionalized, at what
the life of a video game designer is really like. I enjoyed the characters, especially those of the designers, Sam and Sadie, and their friend,
Marx, and their various relationships to each other. The writing is so engaging that I felt like I truly knew them.

John Green, an author I love, wrote of this book: "Utterly brilliant. In this sweeping, gorgeously written
novel, Gabrielle Zen charts the beauty, tenacity and fragility of human love and creativity... (The book)
is one of the best books I've ever read."

I agree with John that it is a brilliant book, the kind of book I believe I will still be thinking of months later. The book is unpredictable and
has a shocking twist but more than the plot it is the characters that I loved most. Film rights have been purchased with Zevin writing the screenplay.

 #33 - Dark Music by David Lagercrantz. This is the first book in a new series by David. He is perhaps best known as the lucky author picked to write the fourth, fifth and sixth installments respectively in the Millennium series originated by Stieg Larsson, after Steig died.  His books were not as great as Steig's but they were still decent, mostly because of the fascinating characters created by Steig.

This new series, inspired by Sherlock Holmes, features Professor Hans Rekke, a world authority on interrogation techniques but he has a fragile psyche and deep depression, and Micaela Vargas,
a street-smart police officer, daughter of Chilean political refugees. Michaela needs the help of Hans and his unique mind to solve a case involving a murdered asylum-seeker from Afghanistan. The case is complicated, partly because it appears to involve issues back in Afghanistan.

This book was, mostly, a disappointment. It had an interesting premise but for the most part I could not get into the characters, with the exception of the two main characters, and by the half-way mark I stopped caring about the plot.  I read on only because I wanted to know who the killer was which turned out not to be a surprise to me. I give this book a 6.

#34 - Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Rayborn. I picked up this book for two reasons: 1)
It was named one of the top ten crime novels of 2022 by Crime Reads, a publication I  trust, and was recommended to me by friends and family and 2) It has a, well, killer of a hook: Four female deadly assassins, having reached age 60, are sent on an all-expenses-paid vacation to mark their retirement from the Museum, an elite network of assassins who trained them when they were 20. However, they soon learn,  fifth member of the group is in pursuit with plans to hunt them down. Put simply, the Museum wants them dead. The women want to know why.

Now after 40 years working for the Museum the women, marked for death, use their creative and sometimes violent skills to fight back. They get rid of that fifth member but then a sixth comes, and a seventh, etc.

The writing is clever, precise and quite funny. It puts me to mind of the Thursday Murder
Club in that it's smart, clever and witty. There are more murders and the women are more
bad-ass in this book, though.

As the story progresses the author will write of advice their mentors told them, such as this:
"Always choose an alias with your own initials... At some point, you will be tired or distracted
or simply human and you will start to write or say your real name, instead of your alias. It is
far easier to correct your mistake without around suspicion if you have at least begun with the
proper letter. Also, it means never having to change your monogram. Remember, ladies, your lives
are lies not, but the fewer you tell, the simpler it is to keep them straight."

The book has an intriguing author's note: "Some of the dates are misleading; some of the
names are lies. I'm not trying to protect the innocent. I'm trying to protect the guilty.
You'll understand soon enough."

Rayborn, for what it's worth, has traditionally written historical fiction, but I
hope she writes more books like this as she is really good at it.  

I think author Ariel Lawhorn nails it when she writes, "Killers of a Certain is a delightful, twisty,
hilarious novel that proves revenge is a dish best served cold. Filled with jet-setting adventure and a
group of clever, middle-aged lady assassins, it's the perfect antidote to any reading drought - and
a whopping good page-turner. I loved it!" I also loved it and give it a rare 9.

#35 - Pieces of Her and Girl, Forgotten by Karin Slaughter. These are the first two books in a series by one of my favorite crime novelists, who writes the excellent Will Trent series, which has been adapted into a great TV show.

Pieces of Her came out in 2018 but crossed my radar when Netflix began streaming an adaptation of
it in March 2022 . I generally prefer the book to the TV series or movie adaptation so I made a mental note to read Pieces of Her before possibly watching the series. But then I began reading a bunch of other authors and forgot about it until I learned that Pieces was the start of a series and the second book in the series  had been published. So I decided to read both and review them together.

Pieces of Her is about Andrea (who goes by Andy) Oliver and her mother, Laura. Andy thought she knew everything about her mom, that she keeps no secrets and would never want to live anything but a quiet, normal life. Then something happens which changes her view of her mom: They were visiting a mall when there is shocking violence and her mom calmly faces down a murderer. Andym and the reader, gradually learn that for nearly 30 years Laura has been hiding, hoping she would never be found. But she  can't undo what she has done.  

The assailant was a mentally troubled teenage, a son of Georgia law enforcement royalty and now the police want more details on what went down at the mall. Laura refuses to communicate with anyone, including her daughter, who wants to help without understanding this new side of her mom she has not seen before. Oh, and Andy kills a man who was trying to hurt or kill her mom and Laura tells Andy to go far away to stay out of trouble but I don't want to say any more about that for fear I will spoil something.

The book makes effective use of flashbacks to earlier in Laura's life. Let's just say what we learn about Laura's earlier life is shocking, both to the reader and to Andy. Meanwhile, someone is following Andy from state to state.

It's quite an intense thriller and, as with most of Slaughter's books, clever with good plot twists and interesting characters. I will give it an 8. Warning: There are some really violent scenes.

Other writers share my love of Slaughter's writing. "A fearless writer. One of the boldest thriller writers working  today," blurbs Tess Gerritsen while Michael Connelly writes, "Her characters, plot, and pacing are unrivaled among thriller writers. Lastly, James Patterson states the obvious: "Karen Slaughter has - by far - the best name of all of us mystery novelists."

In Girl, Forgotten, Andrea - no longer going by Andy - has taken the training to become a U.S. Marshall, much to the annoyance of her law enforcement-hating mother. When Andrea gets her first assignment, to protect a judge receiving death threats, Andrea is more interested in finding the killer
of Emily Vaughn, who was murdered 40 years earlier, in 1982.

Emily was murdered around the time of her high school prom. She has a secret which may be why she was killed: At the time she was pregnant, 18, and while she never told anyone who the father was, it is believed to be Andrea's real father, who is a murdering psychopath who is in jail but going before
the parole board in six months. If Andrea can definitively prove that this man was the killer he would remain locked up for life. The judge is Emily's mother. The judge was in the early stages of the process of getting nominated when it became publicly known that Emily was pregnant.

While doing her work with the judge Andrea and another marshal encounter a local cult, which is frustrating since, as with most cults, it is not exactly forthcoming to law enforcement. The two leaders of the cult were part of the same clique as Emily and could potentially be the one who killed her.  Andrea's father was also the leader of a cult.

I never thought I would say this about a book by Slaughter but I was very underwhelmed by this one. The characters were less interesting than usual, and the plot was not as clever as in most of her books. The second half gets more interesting as there are some excellent plot twists. I give this one a 7. Slaughter indicates, in the acknowledgements (spelling) that her next project will be part of
the Will Trent book series. Yay!

#36 - A World of Curiosities by Louise Penny. This is the 18th book in Penny's amazing series
about Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and the latest one she has published. I have read every book in this series - I love the settings, the characters, the plots, etc. - and this  one is as good as the rest.

A young man and woman have arrived in Three Pines, where Gamache and many of his friends also live. The two were children when their troubled mother was murdered and Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvior investigated the case and learned the mother had been prostituting her own kids. They both arranged for their mother's death but even years later Gamache and Beauvior still differed on which of them they think set things in motion, the boy or the girl. Gamache has  befriended the girl, Fiona, and has accepted her into their home but he has always been suspicious of the boy, Sam, and even Gamache's wife is not  exactly sure why. Why is Sam now in Three Pines? Does he have something planned?
The book also talks about the Montreal Murders on Dec. 6, 1989, when Penny was a journalist and Gamache was a paramedic. One man murdered 14 people that day, all women. In the acknowlegements Penny calls this scene where Gamache responds to that tragedy as a paramedic but decides that day to apply to transfer to homicide as his "origin story." Gamache makes it clear he is for more gun control.

I waited for more than six months to get this from the library since many others requested it first but this was way worth the wait. I always enjoy being in the company of the cast of characters of this series and liked this story. I give it a 8. Warning: It is dark in places.

#37 - Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story by Bono. I am always up for a good memoir by a musician I admire and  I do like Bono, singer of U2. I particularly love early U2 - from Boy to Joshua Tree with my two favorite U2 songs being "Pride: In the Name of Love" and "Sweetest Thing." I saw them twice, once in a stadium and once at a free unannounced show they did at the Hollywood premiere of Rattle and Hum. One of the main reasons I like the band is its lyrics and the band's politics, including particularly in the Amnesty International tour. I was less of a fan of the band's albums
in more recent years.

This is a very thoughtful, insightful memoir. He starts by chronologically taking the readers through his childhood and young adulthood, noting his exposure to music and love of certain songs. He occasionally stops to mention which people he knew, especially friends and family, would later turn up in U2 song lyrics.

It's interesting to hear about how the band got together and what they were like back in the early days, way before their first show. The week he joined the band was also the week he asks his girlfriend, Ali, to marry him. She is still his wife to this day and they have four children.

The fun is contagious as they get the band running and we readers know what he did not at that point: How huge the band would become.

One thing I liked about the recent memoirs I read by Peter Hook (Joy Division, New Order) and Tracy Thorn (Everything But the Girl) is that they wrote in great deal about the makings of each album, how the songs came about and what all transpired in the studio. In the book's first third Bono doesn't
do that, with a few exceptions. He mentions the inspiration for a song or two but does not, for example, go into details about how the band constructed some of my most favorite songs.

For the 2/3rd of the book third there is more detail about how an album came together, which is great, but still I wanted more. He discusses in more detail its War album.  Bono goes into great detail into how "Sunday Bloody Sunday" came about. Edge wanted U2 to do a song about The Troubles but Bono wanted to find something original to say about it. While the song became a hit some in Ireland hated it and there was a lot of negative comments and press at that time.

One of favorite parts of the book when Bono wrote about what would become such an amazing and influential album: Joshua Tree. Bono writes of how a visit to El Salvador inspired the song Bullet to the Blue Sky and how when he returned he asked the Edge if he could make his guitar sound like low-flying fighter plans, and Edge could and he did.

I like that Bono admits that the Pop album, which was more experimental and electronic than usual, was a failure. I dislike when musicans act like every song or album they have made is gold.

I also like the personal tidbits and anecdotes. His wife, Ali, was never comfortable with Bono driving especially as he had wrapped his first car around a lamppost. So even when headed to the hospital to have their first baby she insists on driving. Bono said she was fond of telling him such reminders
as: "Traffic signals are not advice; they are commands."

He talks about spending time with Michael Hutchence (lead singer of INXS), with David
Bowie, and how opera singer Luciano Pavarotti totally pressured him into doing music with him and how he got so drunk while nervously hanging out with Frank Sinatra that he accidently wet himself.

Bono describes when he and the Edge went to Ukraine during its current war and met with President Zelenskyy, how one day Mikhail Gorbachev stopped by his  house (Bono had forgotten to mention to his wife that he might be stopping by) and Gorbachev meets Ali's goddaughter, who had been born with severe disabilities resulting from the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl. It could have been an akward meeting but Gorbachev tells them that it was Chernobyl's disaster that made him realize the Soviet  Union could not continue as it was.

I love that in one of the times Bono met former German chancellor Angela Merkel, she asked him: "Have you heard  'This is Nigeria' by Falz?" to which he replied, and this made me laugh, "Chancellor, are you turning me on to new music?" While pushing for a good cause Bono met with President Biden and a congressman, with the latter mistaking him for Thom Yorke of Radiohead. The two look
nothing alike. There are also stories about Bono spending time, separately, with Paul McCartney, Prince and Nelson Mandela.

My favorite story he tells about meeting a public figure concerns Pope John Paul II, who Bono and others were trying to get his support on an issue. A group of them met with the Pope and Bono soon realized the Pope was staring at him and, more specifically, staring at Bono's sunglasses. You know the sunglasses - you'll see them if you google any photos of him in the last ten years. Bono wears these blue-tinted D&G sunglasses because he has glaucoma but the pope does not know that and Bono realizes the pope may be looking at him for having poor manners for wearing sunglasses while meeting with the pope. Then Bono has an idea: He offers his shades to the pope along with some books of poetry in exchange for some rosary beads.  As Bono writes, the Pope puts them on and, looking
through the shades, and "makes what can only be described as, excuse my language, a devilish grin." The vatican photographer take a bunch of pictures and Bono imagines the newspapers the follow day will be filled with pictures of the pope wearing Bono's glasses. Unfortuntely, the Vatican blocked release of the photos and they only came out six years later, after John Paul II had died.

As with most musicians's memoirs I find it accentuates the experience to listen to the band's music while reading about the music and so when he wrote  about, say, the excellent U2 album War I was listening to that album.

I enjoyed this 563-pat3 book and learned a lot about Bono and the band. If you were ever a fan of U2, you will enjoy this book. I think non-U2 fans may also enjoy it but may miss some reference points. I give this a rare 9.

In about a month I plan to read Sting's memoir while listening to Sting and the Police.

#38 - Jo Nesbo - Knife, Macbeth, The Thirst and Phantom. Knife is the 12th book in Nesbo's series about Harry Hole, a brilliant and rogue police officer in Norway. I read much of the series a few years ago then took a break because it's dark, sometimes gory, stuff, and thus hard to read at times. But I decided to resume with this one. Harry is having drunken blackouts, drinking even more than usual, and his reputation at work is terrible.

Rakel, the only woman he has ever loved, kicked him out of her house. Things go from bad to worse for Harry when Rakel is found, murdered, in her home.  Harry wants to investigate her murder but was told he can't work on the case since he's the victim's spouse. Harry being Harry he investigates anyway
in his own unique way. Meanwhile, Svein Finne, the most notorious criminal in Norway, the serial murderer and rapist Harry put in jail a decade ago, is now free and Harry thinks he's committing new crimes and intends to stop him. As usual with Nesbo's books, the characters, the dialogue  and the plotting are all well done. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy this series and will resume reading it. I give this book an 8.

I also read a Nesbo stand alone called Macbeth, which is about a run-down industrial town where the police force is trying to deal with a persistent drug problem. Duncan, the police chief, is loved by some in town but the criminals, of course, don't like him. There are two drug lords and one is named Hecate and he is trying to manipulate Inspector Macbeth, head of SWAT, who has violent and paranoid tendencies. Can Hecate be stopped? Will he successfully manipulate Macbath? Sorry I'm not telling.

Macbeth, as you might guess by the title and some of the characters' names, is essentially a crime noir version of Shakespeare's Macbeth, set in 1970. A publisher did a project where he asked contemporary writers to reimagine Shakespeare's plays. And so Nesbo does and he does a great job of it.
I wish I was more familiar with Macbeth so I could tell if the characters in the book acted similarly to those in the original play but I did recognize the Three Witches, who appeared at one point, and some other characters taking actions similar to those in the movies I have seen of the play. And just as in Macbeth there are killings, lots of them, in fact.

I admire the ambitiousness and execution of this Macbeth variation but I still prefer the Harry Hole books to this. I give this book an 8.

I decided to read one more Harry Hole book, The Thirst, before moving on to other authors. The Thirst is the 11th book in the Harry Hole series. In the prior novel, Police, a killer wreaked revenge on the police had Harry fighting once again for the lives of those closest to him. Hole promised the woman he loves, and promised himself, that he would never return to the police force.

However, when there is a new serial killer targeting Tinder daters and he may be using a incredibly disgusting device to do the killing, the chief of police turns to Hole, the most successful murder detective the police have ever had, and makes threats against his family if Harry does not return to help this high profile case.

Seeing as he has no choice Hole agrees, and recognizes something that investigators didn't notice, something suggesting the killer is an old nemesis, a murderer that got away. This is another good story, with intriguing characters and excellent plot twists. I also give this an 8.

I next turned to Phantom, which is the ninth book book in the series. In this one, Harry has a new problem: Oleg, the son of the woman he has loved and lost but still loves, has been arrested for murder. And Oleg, who Harry helped raise, is refusing to talk to Harry. Harry wants to prove Oleg's innocence but that's difficult since he has been barred from rejoining the police force. Since Oleg was a drug user Harry has to get involved in the ugly, violent drug world to try to sort out what really happened. Or is Oleg really guilty? And can Harry remain sober for the whole book?

I like Nesbo and his books and I'm not alone - his books are quite popular. If you don't mind dark, often violent, material, this is great stuff. Other writers are also fans. The always cocky and confident James Ellroy blurbs, "I am the world's greatest living crime writer. (Nesbo) is a man who is snapping at my heels like a rabid pit bull poised to take over my mantle when I dramatically pre-decease him." The New Yorker writes, "In the crowded field of Scandinavian crime fiction, Nesbo's books stand out... Nesbo likes to rip plots up.. to play with the conventions of his genre." Lastly, Vanity Fair writes, "Nesbo explores the darkest criminal minds with grim delight and puts his killers where you least expect to find them... His novels are maddeningly addictive." I agree with all of those statements.

Fun fact about Nesbo: He once recommended his book, The Redbreast, to the prime minister of Norway before remembering the excellent book includes a plot to kill the royal family. Oops

#39 - Black Dog and Quick & Dirty by Stuart Woods. This is the 62nd book in Woods' Stone Barrington series. Stone is a former NYPD detective turned lawyer, counsel for a prestigious law firm. This is one of the last books
the prolific Woods wrote: This was published in August 2022 and he died on July 22, 2022.

In this novel, Stone has a new client, who is beautiful and incredibly wealthy. He first meets her when she wants to make a new will to reflect issues with her stepson, Edwin Jr., who she describes as "a right little shite."  Specifically, she wants a trust set up for him that would pay him $100,000 a month for the rest of her life on the condition he can never ever be in the same house as she. This is partly because she thinks he has been sending anonymous threats. She makes Stone the sole trustee and as soon as he meets with Edwin he knows this is not going to be a good, healthy relationship and such is indeed the case with Eddie making demands of him,  trying to pressure Stone on certain decisions, getting in trouble with the law, etc.

Although this is one of the last books in the series I wanted to read at least one book in this series before it ended and I am glad I did. While not exactly deep it was a fun thriller with good, witty repartee. I give it an 8.

This sparked me to read another book in the Stone Barrnington series called Quick & Dirty, the 43rd book in the series. In this one Stone gets a new client, who he almost immediately starts sleeping with. Stone, I realized, sure gets around. Anyway,she lost a Van Gogh in a  robbery-murder in which her husband died, although the police are not convinced she didn't just hide the Van Gogh somewhere. Stone gets involved in trying to find the valuable missing painting. Eventually, things get sorted of, kind of.

These books are guilty pleasures but reading the second book made me realize how formulaic these books are. We can all use some guilty pleasures at times but I think I will pass on reading other novels by Woods. I give this one a 7.

#40- My Heart Is A Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones. I first saw Don't Fear The Reaper,
which is the second book in the Indian Lake Trilogy, in the new books section of the library, and based on the plot description decided to read the two books in order. The author, a Blackfoot Native American, won the 2021 Bram Stoker Award for Heartbreaker and also wrote the book
The Only Good Indians.

Tommy Orange, another excellent Native American author, has written that Jones is
"one of our more talented living writers." I agree.

The novel is about Jade Daniels, a high school senior who loves watching, writing about
and talking about slasher films. But her school and community does not appreciate girls
who love slasher films, have blue hair and wear torn t-shirts. She lives in Proofock, Idaho, which is
alongside Indian Lake, where both Camp Blood - site of a massacre 50 years ago -
and Terra Nova, a fancy new neighborhood being carved out of a national forest. Jade struggles to break free from her alcoholic, abusive father.

She thinks a slasher is in town and ready to start killing. Nobody seems to take her worries seriously. But then there is a series of unusual deaths that are becoming harder to explain, leading the reader to wonder if Jade is really on to something? And, no, I'm not telling you if she's imagining
or if it is real.

It took me a while to warm up to this character who is almost obessive about her slasher film fantasy,
talking about who in her life might do what if a slasher was about to appear. But over time she did grow on me,  especially when those who cared about her misinterpreted this fascination as a cry for help.

I have never been into slasher films but I did really enjoy this book, although it took a while getting used to the amount of violence happening. NPR called the book "a beautiful love letter to horror movies" while Rolling Stone said the novel was "both an homage to this trope and a big old 'fuck you' to the concept that only good girls can prevail."

The author begins his acknowledgements by thanking a video rental clerk who would weekly slip a bunch of slasher films to he and his 8th grade friends every Friday night on the condition they be returned Saturday. He goes on to thank one of his friend's dads who would, a few films in, "drag his Freddy fingers on the metail door of the garage we were in. We'd fall off the saggy couch we were piled onto, we'd blast out the side door, and we'd run like I've never run since, tears slipping back from my eyes, my mouth actually hurting because my smile was so wide, nothing but darkness yawning open in front of me."

Time, though, puts it best: "At once an homage to the horror genre and a searing indictment of the brutal legacy of Indigenous genocide in America, Stephen Graham Jones' My Heart Is a Chainsaw delivers both dazzling thrillers and visceral commentary... Jones takes grief, gentrification, and  abuse to task in a tale that will terrify you and break your heart all at the same time."

In the second book of the trilogy, Don't Fear The Reaper, set a few years later, Jade returns to town the same day that convicted Indigenous serial killer Dark Mill South escapes from  his prison transfer into town to complete his revenge killings. He wants revenge for 38 Dakota men hanged in 1862 and quickly get to work killing folks. Meanwhile, Jade, now going by her real name, Jennifer, swears she is no longer into slasher films... but we'll see if that continues through the whole book when things go awry.

I didn't like the second book as much as the first. At 450 pages it seemed like it could have easily had 50 pages removed and it wouldn't be losing anything important.
Both books are fascinating, captivating and engaging. I think you will like them, especially if you are into slasher films. I give an 8 to Chainsaw and a 7 to Reaper. Warning: This may be obvious but there is lots of violence and it is dark.

#41 - Finlay Donovan Is Killing It and Finlay Donovan Knocks 'Em Dead by Elle Cosimano. These are the first two books in the series about Finlay Donovan, which I had heard great things about. This meets the hype. It's good, clever stuff. Originally, I checked the second book out since it was in the new arrivals section.  I liked it so much I went back and read the first book in the series, which is also hilarious and excellent.

The first book is about, as the titles suggest, a single mother of two and a struggling novelist named Finlay Donovan. She gets into all kinds of mischief, often accidentally, like when, sitting in a Panera, she describes a book plot involving murder to her agent and someone, overhearing, thinks she's a
contract killer and she then inadvertently accepts a contract to kill a problem husband. Oops. She decides to spy on him at a bar and next thing she knows this blackmailing, possible rapist is dead in her van but she doesn't think she killed him (it's complicated) and yet still gets paid.

Anyway, it looks bad and things go downhill from there, especially when she is given a new unwanted contract: To kill a local Mob hitman and his wife, who puts up the contract, won't say no for an answer. And the police are beginning to suspect the "real" killer is Teresa, her ex-husbands's girlfriend, because that is the name Finlay gave the night of the first "murder." Meanwhile, the detective investigating the case seems to have a crush on Finlay. What to do, what to do? Sorry I'm not going to tell you what they did. You will have to read this to find out.

As with most good novels it has a great opening paragraph: "It's a widely known fact that most moms are ready to kill someone by 8:30 am on any given morning. On that particular morning of Tuesday, Oct. 8th, I was ready by 7:45. If you've never had to wrestle a two-year-old slathered in maple
syrup into a diaper while your four-year-old decides to give herself a haircut in time for preschool, all while trying to track down the whereabouts of your missing nanny as you sop up coffee grounds from an overflowing pot because in your sleep-deprived-fog you forget to put in the filter, let me spill it out for you.
"I was ready to kill someone. I didn't really care who."

Reading that opening, I was hooked. Incidentally, the author really was sitting in a Panera talking to author friends, discussing crime novel plots, when one of them asked the question that inspired this book, namely what if other customers thought they were contract killers?

In the second book Finlay is struggling to finish her next novel while dealing with other problems, especially after she learns there is a contract out to kill her ex-husband who, despite his faults, she does not want to die. She must try to keep him safe and try to determine who is trying to kill him. Lots of excitement and, due to the author's writing style, a great deal of fun.

Author Lisa Gardner writes, "Read in a single night, applauding along the way. For anyone who's ever wished to turn her life around, Finlay Donovan is the master. From failing at everything, to succeeding brilliantly, she proves you only need to get mistaken once for a contract killer to solve all your problems." Author Kellye Garrett writes, "Edgar-nominated author Elle Cosimano's adult debut has everything I love - a plucky protagonist, perfect plot twists, and Panera! Finlay Donovan is not only killing it - she may just be my new favorite character. You won't be disappointed!"

Both books are witty, fast-paced and clever. I give them both an 8. 

#42 - The Murder Book, Sleepyhead, Scaredy Cat, Cry Baby, Love Like Blood and Die of Shame by Mark Billingham. I saw the Murder Book in the new arrival shelf at my library and decided to give this author a try. Now I'm hooked. This book is the 18th in the Tom Thorne series. Billingham, who is also a comedian and an actor, is writing a great series, based on this book.

Some of my favorite authors - Karin Slaughter, Michael Connelly, Ian Rankin and Lee Child - all share praise for the series on the book's back cover. Rankin writes, "Tom Thorne is one of the most credible and engaging heroes in contemporary crime fiction. Mark Billingham is a master of pyschology, plotting and the contemporary scene, making the Thorne novels the complete package."

Detective Inspector Tom Thorn is a police detective in London, who has good friends within the department and a nice girlfriend. It's good that he has an excellent support system since he's going to need it with what is to come.  A series of murders happens - a clever young woman is setting up "dates" through on-line dating apps then killing the men back at their place, then usually taking one body part as a souveneir. Thorn and his colleagues work hard  to catch her. But when they do catch her, when things would normally wind down for the rest of the book, they instead get more intense and worrisome, or at least they do for Thorn. At least one major secret from his past is revealed, all because of this young woman's actions, possibly ruining his and others careers.

This book is intense, well-plotted and has an excellent set of characters. I had trouble putting this book down.  It has good plot twist throughout the book. I give it an 8.5.

I then went back and read the first two books in the series, Sleepyhead and Scaredy Cat, and both were also extremely well done with lots of surprise developments, great plott‌ing and a good cast of characters. I give both an 8. In Sleepyhead one of the killer's victims has locked-in syndrome, where a person is paralyzed, conscious but unable to communicate. Thorn tries to find a way to communicate with this victim.  Scaredy Cat was inspired by something scary and real in the author's life when he and his writing partner were kidnapped and held hostage.

I decided to read another, Cry Baby, which is a pre-quel to Sleepy Head. Cry Baby does an excellent job of establishing the characters in the series, how they met, etc. It also has a riveting plot with a surprise ending.

I liked that one enough to read one more of this series before trying some other books. In Love Like Blood, the 14th book in the series, Thorne teams up with Detective Inspector Nicola Tanner, a perfectionist featured in the book Die of Shame, in an investigation that gets
into politically sensitive territory. Tanner's life partner was recently murdered and Tanner thinks it was a case of mistaken identity - that she was the real target. The murderer's motive may have been related to Tanner's recent work on a series of cold-case honor killings that she thinks are related. Tanner is on compassionate leave and asks Thorne to help investigate while she works off the books. He agrees. The book has many good plot twists with a big one at the end. Well played.

The book has many exciting plot twists and some interesting characters, including a pair of twisted killers. The book - along with a helpful author's note - helped educate me about honor killings. I give this one an 8.

I really liked the Tanner character so I decided to read the book, Die of Shame, in which she was featured. It is not considered part of the Tom Thorne series but it does feature Tanner as a major character and Thorne as a very minor character. The story is about a murder but the reader doesn't know who the killer is until near the end of the book.

The book alternates between a bit in the past and the present, or as the book phrases it "now" and "then." The victim was part of a therapy group - all six members were dealing with a history of pain and addiction. The police investigation, led by Tanner, thinks the murderer is a member of the group but is hampered by the confidentiality of the group. It doesn't help that it seems like all of the group members are lying and keeping secrets from the
police as well as from each other.

The conclusion was a surprise, a good twist - I love a good clever book that keeps the reader guessing until the end. Among Billingham's skills is misdirection - the book would make you think it was one killer but then you'd realize that was wrong and then another killer, and so on. I give this an 8.

One of my favorite crime novelists, Michael Connelly, wrote "With each of his books, Mark Billingham gets better and better. These are stories and collectors you don't want to leave." Agreed. If you have not read Billingham I suggest checking out one of his books. The characters and plots are first rate.   

#43 - The Furies and The Whisperer by John Connolly. The Furies is the 20th book in Connolly's series about  private investigator Charlie Parker. These are the first stories in the series I have read and I was so impressed I'm now hooked on this author.  

This book contains two novels: one is the Sisters Strange, and it involves a violent criminal named Raum Buker returning to Portland after some years, with him being in prison for some of these years. He wants to resume relations with two sisters  named Strange and Parker is keeping an eye on the situation. Meanwhile, a reclusive man who collects coin and gold is found dead after suffocating on gold someone made him swallow. At some point these two cases connect.  

And in the title novel, The Furies, Parker works two separate cases, similar only that in both cases the women are victims but very strong personalities. In one the woman was the wife of a member of the mob who snitched and, as a result, he and his daughter were killed. Now two violent scum have stolen her last belongings of her daughter and are demanding $50,000 to get it back. In the other case, a woman hires Parker to help her daughter escape from a violent domestic violence abuser who won't let her out of his sight. Meanwhile, Portland shuts down in the face of a global pandemic.  

"One of the best thriller writers we have," blurbs Harlan Coben, who knows from thrillers.  

I was blown away by both stories - both were excellent - and give them an 8. I plan to read others in the series.  

In fact, I liked that book enough that I decided to read another Connolly book, this one called the Whisperer, which is the ninth book in Connolly's Charlie Parker series. As part of an investigation Charlie Parker finds himself at the border between Maine and Canada, where a group  of disenfranchised former solders, newly back from Iraq, are smuggling drugs and who knows what else.  

Law enforcement suspects something is going on, but they have no idea of the scope of this operation. Parker has a better idea of what exactly is happening. The soldiers have begun to die in apparent suicides, one after another. Parker is asked to try to stop the deaths, among
other things. There are some really evil people involved and at least one of the evil people is working for Parker.  

Part of the story is about the prevalence of PTSD among soldiers and how that sometimes leads to suicide. This is an excellent story and, as usual with Parker stories, the characters are fascinating, especially the good guys. I give this an 8. This is an excellent series, with an intriguing, admirable protagonist who does the right thing even when it's easy. I plan to read more of this series. 

#44 - The Breaker and The Wild One by Nick Petrie. These books are part of the great Peter Ash series, Ash being a former marine who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ash has a
problem, which he calls "white static," a claustrophobia that he feels especially when inside buildings. Along with his friend, Lewis, also a former Marine,
they do low-profile and work and stay out of trouble. But when Ash is with Lewis and Ash's girlfriend, June, a newspaper reporter, Peter notices a man
walking into a crowded market with a rifle.

Ash and Lewis jump into action and Ash does interrupt a crime but it's not what he anticipates. All three investigate further to see what's really going on but
keep their involvement from the police and the news media since Ash is wanted by two governments. Soon someone from Ash's past shows up offering to scrub clean Ash's
record if they solve this mystery. Meanwhile, a man they dub Mr. Cheerful, who loves throwing axes and hurting people, is following them around, tries
to kidnap June and does attack her later.

With The Breaker, Petrie again shows he is a master of pacing, great plotting and fascinating characters. I give it an 8.  

I decided to read, for now, one more Petrie book: The Wild One. The Breaker is the number sixth book in the series and the Wild One is the fifth in the series.
With his post-traumatic claustrophia Ash does not want to get on an airplane, headed to Iceland, but he has to in order to help a grandmother find her
eight-year-old grandson, who has been kidnapped and his mother murdered. The dead daughter's husband is the sole suspect and he is believed to be with
his son in Iceland.

When Ash does arrive in Iceland, though, he is met by a man from the United States Embassy who does not want Ash in the country. He must be on a return
flight leaving in two days. Pretty soon after arival he is slipped a drug in his drink and beaten up bad but, of course, he gets revenge. I will let you
speculate on whether you think Ash will be on the return flight if he does not find the father and son. Oh and there's the most powerful Icelandic snowstorm
in a generation, so that amps up the action in this excellent, engrossing thriller.

Parkers's friend, Lewis, is not in this novel as he is on vacation with his wife but while I missed his presence the story was complete and excellent
and enjoyable without him. I give this good thriller an 8. One of the reasons I love this series is because Ash is such a great character. As Lee Child,
who knows from thrillers, writes, "Lots of characters get compared to my own Jack Reacher, but Peter Ash is the real deal."

Other good writers like the series too. Robert Crais writes, "If you're not already on the Peter Ash train, jump aboard now... Nick Petrie is doing
headliner work" and Michael Koryta writes, "Nick Petrie's exceptional writing has earned him comparisons to many of the thriller-genre greats.. Petrie is
setting the bar, not reaching for it."

#45 - Good Booty: Love and Sex, Black & White, Body and Soul in American Music by Ann Powers. I have long been a fan of her
music criticism and reporting, first reading her at the New York Times and, currently, at NPR. She has written a
fascinating book about those topics mentioned in the title. She does this by taking the reader through a history of music in the United
States, exploring how popular music shapes fundamental American ideas and beliefs which, according
to the book jacket, "Allows us to commmunicate both emotionally and thoughtfully about our most fraught social issues, sex and race."

Music critic Jessica Hopper blurbs, "An enlightened examination of how America has been
revivified, undone, scandalized, and changed by sexual expression in song... A fearless,
and often funny, feminist work. I feel like I have been waiting my whole life for
this book - Good Booty is glorious!" Hopper is also mentioned in the book.

I enjoyed taking this guided history course over more than a century of music,
with Powers telling fascinating anecdotes and lessons both about musicians but
also about interesting cultural trends and ideas relating to music. Again from the book jacket: "In telling
the history of how American popular music and sexuality intersect, Good Booty - Powers'
magnum opus over two decades into the making - offers new insight into our national psyche
and our soul."

She accomplishes all of these goals she has set for herself. I learned a great deal, and now have a long list of musical artists,
some who entertained more than 50 years ago, that I want to research and listen to, thanks to the book. It was
also fascinating to read this history from a women's perspective, with her quick to point out the misogyny in addition
to the racism, sexism and homophobia in the music industry that wrecked many a career. I thought she would have less insights into
the last 30 or 40 years since I pay attention to the music industry along with critics beyond just Powers. But she again
pleasantly surprised me with new information from that period.

I give this find book a rare 9. If you care about music and how it relates to sex and race this is the book for you.

In a section in the book about groupies Powers mentions one of the most famous groupies ever, namely Pamela Des Barres, and her
notorious book I'm With The Band, about what she saw and did as a groupie. I have always meant to read this book
and learn more about her and her antics. The library did not have a print copy of that book
but it did have a follow-up titled Let's Spend The Night Together: Backstage Secrets of Rock Muses and Supergroupies, also by Des Barres, which I read.
I had low expectations, expecting it just to be about groupies discussing sleeping with rock stars. But I found Des Barres interviews with different
groupies engaging, learning about their interests and ambitions and I admit to enjoying some of the salacious details.

A theme running through the book is some discomfort with the word "groupie" itself since many interviewed objected to how the term is used more recently with one, Bebe Buell,
preferring the word "muse" instead. Many of these women had their first sexual experiences with rock stars when around 13 or 14 years old. I'd say
Keith Moon, former drummer of the Who, was the musician most mentioned as far as the one most of these women slept with and in second place was Jimmy Page
of Led Zeppelin. The epilogue featured a conversation with former Rolling Stone journalist Cameron Crowe who featured a groupie named Penny Lane in his movie, Almost Famous. This conversation is particularly
intriguing since many, including Des Barres herself, see a lot of similarities been her and the character. I give this an 8.

I mentioned above a blurb by a music critic named Jessica Hopper and I have been intrigued by her so I picked up her book:  The First Collection
of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic, published in 2015. I enjoyed her feminist perspective on music and her insightful pieces of various bands. She is a good
interviewer and writes profiles and think pieces on such artists as Lana Del Rey, St. Vincent, Rickie Lee Jones and groups like Fleetwood Mac,
Sonic Youth and Big Star.

I was particularly impressed with a piece exploring the sexism of emo music and an oral history of Hole's great album, Live
Through This. I also liked a piece about how women transformed Rolling Stone magazine in the mid-1970s.

"In this crucial book, Hopper schools us all in the art of criticism. You will be reminded, as I was, why you care to read and write about
(and listen to) music to begin with. Hopper's relationship with music is a joy to behold" writer/actress Tavi Gevinson writes. New York Times Book reviewer Dwight Garner says the book "is by tuns loose and warm and finicky and outraged, and its best pieces are more observant than
94 percent of the first novels that have come my way this year."

Lastly, St. Vincent writes, "Jessica Hopper's criticism is a trenchant and necessary counterpoint not just on music, but on our culture at large." I
agree with all of that praise. I even found myself listening more carefully to some albums to hear insights about songs she shared.  I give this a rare 9.

Fascinated by Hopper herself I decided to read Night Moves, a collection of personal journals she has written. Some were interesting, others were not. The
second half of the 161-page book is the better half, to me at least, as it is more about bands and shows and has a section about Chicago.
Overall, I was underwhelmed and give it a 7.

#46 - My Darkest Prayer by S.A. Cosby. This is his first novel, which I decided to read after really enjoying his more recent novel, Blacktop Wasteland. One of the reasons I love reading Cosby's writing is beautiful in the way James Lee Burke is, it's hard to put in words but the best way  to explain it is that it is a pleasure to read the words, however dark the subject. I don't often re-read passages in a book but I do with Burke and Cosby.  

A good crime novel has a great opening. This is how My Darkest Prayer starts, after the
"I handle the bodies.
"That's what I say when people ask me what I do for a living. I find that gets one of two
responses. They drift away to the other side of the room and give me a sideways glance
the rest of the night or they let out a nervous laugh and move the conversation in another,
less macabre direction. I could always say I work at a funeral home, but where's the fun in

The paperback edition has an introduction by Cosby where he talks about being stuck for
ideas for his first novel after writing many short stories. He met with an author who
suggested Cosby use his past experience working at a funeral home as a jumping off
point. He did and the end result is great.  

Before he began working at his cousin's funeral home and dealing with problems at his
favorite bar, Nathan Waymaker was a former marine and Sheriff's deputies. Things ended badly
with the cops, some of whom still want vengeance.  

Nathan has a reputation as someone who can fix the unfixable. So it was that when a beloved local minister is murdered his parishioners ask Nathan to investigate. He agrees but his investigation keeps encountering roadblocks due to  local corruption, incredibly violent drug dealers and others. Meanwhile, he starts sleeping with the late minister's daughter, a porn star.  

The novel has fascinating characters, excellent dialogue and descriptions, a good plot and some great plot twists I did not see coming. I give this an 8. I will keep reading anything Cosby writes.  



#47 - The Word Is Murder and The Sentence Is Death by Anthony Horowitz. I watched Magpie Murders last year and loved it. It was first a Horowitz novel then he adapted it for the BBC. It's about a popular crime writer killed while finishing his latest mystery, so a mystery within a mystery. It was very clever and meta, turning a traditional mystery story on its head. I  was intrigued and decided to read one of his books.  

I read these two books out of order. The Sentence Is Death is the second book in a new series about Hawthorne and Horowitz. Yes, this author has made himself a character in his own mystery series, where the other Horowitz, also a writer, assists an out-of-work detective
named Daniel Hawthorne. Anyway, the Horowitz in the book follows Hawthorne as he tries to solve a murder. A successful celebrity divorce, Richard Pryce, was murdered when hit with a 1929 Chateau Lafite wine bottle, which is especially weird since Pryce did not drink.  

One suspect is an author whose husband Pryce recently helped in a divorce. At a public restaurant she poured wine over Pryce and threatened to kill him with a wine bottle. But we wise readers know that is too simple a solution.  

One clue: Before he died he was on a phone call with his boyfriend which was interrupted by a doorbell. Pryce answered it and could be heard over the phone saying, "You shouldn't be here. It's too late...." And that is the last thing Pryce was known too say before he died.
Strangely, it was only 8 pm at the time - not too late in the night.  

Who was at the door? There are other questions, like why was a three-digit number painted on the wall. Meanwhile, some of Hawthorne's secrets are being exposed. Will they interfere with the investigation?  

It's a good thriller with intriguing characters. I particularly like how the Horowitz character is routinely criticized by people appalled that he has the gall to not only be part of an investigation but planning to write about it.  

I also love that Horowitz the character has written  a book about Sherlock Holmes, as the real Horowitz did, and gets invited to Hawthorne's book club to talk about it, as part of a book discussion about the Sherlock Holmes classic A Study in Scarlett. The group all hates the Holmes' book. The fact that the Horowitz character is essentially playing the role of Sherlock's Watson made it even more amusing. I give it an 8.  

I decided to go back to read the first novel in the series, The Word Is Murder, and learn how Hawthorne and Horowitz first arranged to work together with Horowitz writing about how Hawthorne solved the mysteries he was investigating. Hawthorne suggested this arrangement and wanted 50 percent of the proceeds. Horowitz initially refuses the offer but of course he soon changes his mind and off they went, the two working on cases,  Horowitz writing about it and us reading about it.  

The book begins with a great premise: A woman, Diana Cowper, goes to a funeral home to make her arrangements for her own eventual funeral even planning her own service. Six hours later she is found dead, strangled, in her own home. Did she know she was about to be killed? How? Was this just a weird coincidence?  

One possible lead is that Cowper, about ten years earlier, was driving and having forgotten her glasses could barely see so when two boys ran into the road ahead of her she did not see them in time and hit them. One boy was killed, the other suffered brain damage. She escaped
any real punishment from the courts.  

That family is understandably upset at her. Were they upset enough to kill her? Diana has told some people that the boy's father was threatening her and texted her son that she happened to see the surviving boy near her place. The boy and his mother say there is no way the boy would be near her.  

There was one part of the book that had me laughing and that is when Horowitz the character told his agent that he planned to write about Hawthorne and his case, which she thought a terrible idea since true crime doesn't sell. Besides, nobody will want to read about Hawthorne, she said, in a book in whichwe are indeed reading about him.  

When he tells her he is considering splitting the profits 50-50 with Hawthorne she again objects. "You're an established writer. He's an out-of-work- detective. If anything, he should be paying you to write about him and certainly he shouldn't be getting more than twenty percent." If he is going to write the book, she says, "You're going to have to change names. You can't just barge into people's houses and put them in a book... You'd better change my name! I don't want to be in it." She is in the book. Oops?  

The Guardian wrote this about The Word Is Murder: "With Magpie Murders, Anthony Horowitz established himself at the playful and experimental end of the mystery spectrum. The Word Is Murder raises the game-playing to Olympic level, as a prolific novelist and TV screenwriter called Anthony Horowitz is tapped by a disgraced detective to co-investigate a killing."  

This is an excellent novel and a great series, which I plan to continue to read. I give this book an 8.5.  

Interesting, morbid factoid about Horowitz: At 13 his mother gave him a human skull. HE has said it reminds him to finish each story before he becomes just a skull himself.

#48  - Gone For Good and Long Gone by Joanna Schaffhausen. This is the first book in her series about Detective Annalisa Vega.
I have been a fan of this author since I interviewed her in 2019 for her book No
That book contained this attention-getting great first line about a police officer: “You kill one guy, one time,
and suddenly everyone thinks you need therapy."

I have been meaning to read one of her more recent books so I checked out this one,
along with the second book in her series, which is called Long Gone.

Good For Gone focuses on the Lovelorn Killer, who has murdered seven women, leaving them for
dead after ritually binding them then writing them gruesome love letters in the local papers. Then he disappeared
for 20 years. Now Vega, who lost someone she cared about to the killer, thinks he's back and wants to solve the case.
As she and her partner, who is also her ex-husband, investigate the killer starts contacting Vega and things
get very personal fast. The ending is a big surprise, or at least it was to me.

The second book, Long Gone, is also excellent, fascinating and engaging.

Thriller author Lisa Gardner writes of this series: "Annalisa Vega is the detective you've been waiting for.
A second-generation Chicago cop, she has the chops to take on a serial killer, a large family to keep
her grounded, and personal experience with the secrets behind closed doors."

Schaffhausen's background include studying neuroscience, a doctorate in psychology,
working for news programs and writing X-Files fan fiction. I think all those projects
helped her become an amazing writer. I liked both of these books, with intriguing characters
and great plotting, and give them both  an 8.5.

#49 - A Study In Crimson by Robert J. Harris.  This is Harris' first book in a series about Sherlock Holmes in
World War II. Specifically, this one is set in London in 1942. Harris, a prolific author, has written a fascinating story which should interest all Sherlock
Holmes fans as well as those fascinated by the unsolved Jack the Ripper movies. I decided to read the first
and the second book in the series,Th e Devil's Blaze, to get a sense of the series quality and strengths.

A preface explains how this particular setting of World War II for Holmes came bout. Namely, after the success of the 1939 20th Century Fox release
The Hound of the Baskerville, the studio then put out The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. While Fox did not continue the series, the two lead actors - Basil
Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes and Nigel Brice as Dr. Watson - did a radio series together. When Universal Pictures stepped in to negotiate a new movie
deal with the Doyle Estate the decision was made to refresh the characters by transplanting them to the then modern era, the wartime London of 1942. This led to
a 12-film series set during the war. "Inspired by that classic series, this novel further explores the world and adventures of its particular version
of the great detective, confronting him with a deadly and cunning adverssary. It is September 1942 and, in the blacked-out streets of London, the
game is once more afoot."

In the first book there is a killer who refers to himself as Crimson Jack who is stalking London, murdering women,
mostly prostitutes, on the exact dates of the infamous Jack the Ripper killings of 1888. Police are stumped on
the man's identity so Scotland Yard asks Sherlock Holmes to try to find and stop him. Soon Holmes is saying he
an identify the true identity of Jack the Ripper and that leads investigators into various direction. But do they
lead to Crimson Jack? This has many great twists and a satisfying conclusion.

In the second book, The Devil's Blaze, it is now 1943 and prominent figures in
government and science are bursting into flames and being incinerated. The government,
worried this is a new terror weapon devised and deployed by the German government,
asks Sherlock to find who is behind this and stop that person.

Sherlock is forced into an alliance with Professor James Moriarty. While the nation
knows Moriarty as a brilliant scientific genius, only Holmes know that he is also a
criminal mastermind. Will they be able to work together to solve this mystery or
is Moriarty setting up a duel to the death?

I always enjoy the company of Holmes and Watson and this is no exception in both of
these thrillers with some good new main characters joining the ones well established, and plenty of plot twists.
I give both books an 8.

#50 - Hope Never Dies and Hope Rides Again by Andrew Shaffer. Hope Never Dies is the first in what they are calling the Obama Biden Mystery series. The books are fun, easy reads that remind me of fan fiction. If you have ever, for example, wanted to imagine Obama burst into a motorcycle club hangout, holding a sawed-off shotgun, to rescue Biden from angry, armed bikers,  this is definitely your book. But I am getting ahead of myself.

In this first book, set several months after Biden lost the 2016 election to Trump, one of Biden's favorite Amtrak conductors dies in a mysterious way:
He was lying on a train line and was hit by one of the cars but there was nothing to suggest he was suicidal.

Biden, bored since he and Obama left the White House, decides to play amateur
detective. Obama helps some too. Biden finds it's easier to be stealthy since he no
long has Secret Service protection.

The book is dedicated to Uncle Joe. Some of the best parts of the book are the exchanges
between Obama and Biden, with Biden sad that his apparent bromance between him
and Obama seems to be over. They also bicker like an old couple with Biden, for
example, interrupting one of Obama's little speeches with "Here comes the hopey changey

The book's own description says this is "Part action thriller, part mystery, part
bromance, and (just to be clear) 100 percent fiction, Hope Never Dies imagines life
after the Oval Office for two of America's greatest heroes. Together they'll prove
that justice has no term limits."

Shaffer, who also wrote the satire novel, Fifty Shades of Earl Gray, is a talented,
witty author. The book's acknowledgement made me laugh with this part: "Thank you to my agent,
Brandi Bowles at UA. She recognized the brilliance of the pictch immediately, responding
with an email reading 'OMG." My wife punched up many of the best jokes in the book. I was
going to thank her here, but she requested I donate her thanks to our sweet, sad cat, Honeytoast.
So, thank you, Honeytoast."

This was a clever read and of the type you can read in, at most, a day or two. I give
it an 8.

The second book in the series is Hope Rides Again and it begins with what appears
to be Biden's thoughts on the first book, though it uses a different title: "What
a bunch of malarkey.
"That had been my response when I'd seen Murder on the Amtrak Express on the paperback
rack at the airport. Some two-bit hack had writen a potboiler starring yours truly,
Joe Biden. Not only that, but the money-grubbing publisher had the gall to slap my
mug on the cover. There I was, grimacing behind the wheel of a silver Pontiac Firebird
Trans Am - a car I'd never driven in my life. Now, six chapters in, my initial
assessment of its literary merit was unchanged. Sometimes you can judge a book by its
cover." And, yes, that is a great description of the Hope Never Dies book cover.

I love self-referential and meta materials about stories. Biden later adds, "I'd
read cereal boxes with better character development. In the parlance of Tony the
Tiger, the book was not grrreat."

Even Chicago politican Rahm Emanuel makes a wisecrack, saying at least the book about
Biden is "better than that Clinton and Patterson train wreck, if you'll forgive the pun."
This is a reference to the novel, the President Is Missing, cowritten by Bill Clinton and James Patterson, which I never got around to reading but now feel compelled to do so in order to see how it compares.

In the first book Biden is considering running again for office and in the second
book he is promoting his book with a of town hall events. "A trial balloon for 2020 that fooled nobody," the book says.

Obama's phone goes missing and Joe helps him find the thief but then the thief
is shot and nearly killed. The police treat it as a gang shooting but Obama and Biden
don't believe that story and dig further, trying to find the shooter. What they
reveal leads to a lot of excellent plot twists and an ending that ties a few things

This was an enjoyable read. I give it an 8. I recommend this series.

#51 - More Than Meets The Eye, Close Your Eyes, Double Blind and Blink of An Eye by Iris Johansen and Roy Johansen. More Than Meets The Eye is the tenth book in the Kendra Michael series. Kendra is a FBI consultant who was blind until she was 20, when she had surgery so she can see. Since she was so long without her sight she has a more heightened awareness of her other senses. I guess it's because of her previously having been blind that each title
in the series include a reference to eye or vision with titles like Close Your Eyes, The Naked Eye, Sight Unseen, Hindsight, etc. While Iris Johansen writes most of her other series by herself for this series her son, Roy, joins her. Earlier in her career Iris switched from writing romance to writing thrillers, which was clearly a good move. And clearly this prolific author is good at crime writing.  

"Unbelievably tense and terrifying," RT Book Reviews writes of one of the books in the series while Suspense Magazine describes another book in the series this way: "This read goes from good to great to spectacular." Lastly, Publishers Weekly writes: "Johansen delivers the goods."  

As More than Meets the Eye begins a serial killer, James Michael Barrett, has just made a plea deal: No death penalty if he showed law enforcement where he left his first victim. When they arrive at the spot Barrett mentions something looks different about the site since he left the body there two years ago. They proceed to dig anyway and that sets off a bomb killing 12 people, including the serial killer and many law enforcement officers, and injuring others.  

Kendra was not present at the bomb but knows some of those injured and killed and insists she will pursue all angles to find out what happened, even if that means dealing with some bruised egos from those who try to interfere. She finds something in Barrett's cell that others
have missed: Prescription swimming goggles. Some analysis determines the goggles belong to a college swimmer named Tricia  Walton, who is the only survivor of attacks by Barett. She is not sure how Barrett could have gotten her goggles - the attack was about four years ago and the goggles are less than two years old. Walton wants to get to the bottom of this and offers Kendra her help. Kendra arranges to get protection for Walton for three days since she may be in danger.  

Kendra is increasingly convinced that Barrett's death was not a suicide but rather another killer arranged the bomb and is now murdering people in a style similar to Barrett's. Obviously there are some who initially don't believe what Kendra is suggesting.  

This was a good thriller keeping me on the edge of my seat. I give it an 8.  

I liked this book enough to go back and read the first book in the series, which is called Close Your Eyes. As it starts Kendra, a music therapist, is approached by a former FBI agent named Adam Lynch, who wants her help in finding and stopping what appears to be a serial killer. She is not interested but he tells her that the latest possible victim is Kendra's last boyfriend, who has disappeared without a trace. She agrees to help.Lynch is also in the other book I read so this must be the start of their business relationship which at some later points turns into a romantic relationship.  

All of the victims have some kind of obscure chemicals in them but Kendra, Lynch and the FBI are unsure how this relates to the murders and how those killed are related. Kendra has her ways of reading rooms and people which is helpful to Lynch and the FBI as they try
to stop the killings, and possibly find her ex-boyfriend.  

I give this one an 8 also.  

Hooked now I read one more book by this duo. Double Blind, the sixth book in the series, has quite an exciting start: A woman, Elena, is running toward Kendra's condo, bleeding from a gunshot to her torso and being chased. She runs into a road to avoid capture and is hit and killed by a car.  

The FBI come to Kendra to ask for her help on a case and she initially refuses, which is when they explained that the woman killed was trying to get to Kendra to give her something: a flash drive. The flash drive contains a 20-minute video of a wedding reception. The FBI and Kendra are stumped as to what message this woman was trying to impart to Kendra. Along with Lynch, the FBI and private investigator Jessie Mercado, Kendra begins investigation. Part
of the puzzle might involve the newly married couple but before they can talk to the bride she is abducted from her home.  

The killer, who may have been a serial killer working in other geographic areas before, begins a pattern of kidnapping and killing members of the wedding party. Then he does something to someone very close to Kendra, but I can't say more than that without   giving away spoilers.  

This is another good thriller. I give it an 8.  

I decided to read one more book by this duo: Blink of An Eye, the 8th book in the series. A pop star named Delilah Winter has become a fan of Kendra's and attended the school where Kenda does her musical therapy work. She invites Kendra and their mutual friend, Jessie Mercado, a detective and the singer's former bodyguard, to a concert at the Hollywood Bowl. In the middle of the show, everything stops and Delilah has seemingly disappeared and two members of the security staff are found dead. They realize she has been kidnapped.  

Jessica and Kendra began investigating the situation but this time it's not just a case, but one involving their mutual friend. In this book, Lynch plays more of a minor role than usual with Jessie playing more of a major role than usual and I really like her as a character. I was surprised when I learned who was behind the kidnapping. Excellent plotting. I give it an 8.  

I decided to take a break from this series to read one of her other series, this one written by herself, about Eve Duncan, a forensic sculptor. Eve's daughter was taken from her years ago but she uses that experience to help other families who have had a similar loss get
as close to closure as possible.  

I was very underwhelmed by the two Eve books I read, Shattered Mirror and Sleep No More, though I liked the latter better than the other because it also included Kendra's character for part of the book. I don't like the Eve series as much as the Kendra series so I'll be sticking with the Kendra series from now on. The characters in the Eve series are not as interesting, the dialogue is more stilted, the plotting not as good, and thus more
predictable, as in the Kendra series. It makes me wonder if her son's involvement is what makes the Kendra series.  

Speaking of which, the acknowledgments page for Sleep No More says this: "Many, many thanks to my son, Roy, for all his help with creating our very special Kendra. She is difficult, complex, and definitely a challenge, and yet he handled her with cleverness and originality. Working with him to meet that challenge was one of the great joys of writing this book."  

I give the two Eve books 6's. 

#52 - Righteous Prey, Phantom Prey and Golden Prey by John Sandford. Righteous Prey is the 32nd book of his series about Lucas Davenport. I seem to see Sandford's name everywhere - best seller lists and new arrivals at the library and it was at the latter that I saw this and decided to give this book and series a try.

I read the premise and was hooked: A press release is sent out announcing, "We're going
to murder the people who need to be murdered." It was sent by a group called The Five,
who are made up of vigilante killers who are very bored and very rich. They kill
rapists, murderers, thieves and offset the damage by donating via bitcoin to victims
and charities. As might happen if this was real life, the group become popular in the media.

When the group kills someone in the Twin Cities, Virgil Flowers and Lucas Davenport go to
investigate and find the killers are virtually untraceable, with smart, carefully choreographed killings. Readers follow on with all these developments and more, with a good well-plotted story. I enjoyed getting to know the protagonists. I give this an 8.

I liked the series enough that I wanted to read another in the series so I picked up
an older book in the series, Phantom Prey, which is #18 in the Lucas Davenport series.

A wealthy widow, Alyssa, comes home to find blood all over one of her walls and her college-age daughter missing. The police investigate and assume she has been killed. Alyssa asks Lucas to investigate and he does. The missing daughter is a goth as are many of her friends. Sandford's descriptions of goths and their culture doesn't quite match my knowledge of it but I let that go.

Then another person, also a goth, is killed then a third. Lucas is trying to figure out who is responsible for the killings and it's no easy task. He gets shot himself but it is not life-threatening.  Meanwhile, a young female Goth who keeps showing up on their radar and then disappearing. What is that all about? What is going on? Sorry, no spoilers.

This is another excellent thriller with some great plot twists. That said, there some truly ridiculous, implausible parts that gnawed at me. Therefore, I give it a 7.
I decided to read one more of this series: Gold Prey, which is #27 in this series. In this one, Lucacs has moved from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to the U.S. Marshals Service, where he gets to pick his next case. He chooses a case others have been attempting
for years: Finding and arresting Garvin Poole. He was recently part of an operation that robbed a drug cartel counting house and killed five people, including a six-year-old girl. Poole has killed before, as has his wife.

But Lucas is not the only one looking - cartel assassins are also looking for the robbers and shooters of the counting house and are killing people along the way. Soon Lucas is himself a target. He gets help and all of the characters, good and bad, are interesting and intriguing. I give this one an 8.

I enjoy this series and plan to read more of it.

#53 - The President Is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson. I decided to read this after reading and enjoying two books in a series by Andrew Sarris, the first called Hope Never Dies, the second titled Hope Rides Again. They are about fictional adventures that occur to President Obama and Vice President Biden, after they leave office and before Biden gets elected president. In the second book characters, including Biden himself, say the first book sucks. Then one says the book is bad but now as awful as this Clinton-Patterson collaboration.

That was it, I decided- now I had to read it to see just how bad it is. The answer? The 513-page book is pretty wild and not necessarily in a good way. As with those few Patterson books I have read the dialogue is hard to believe. It's just not how people talk. And the plot is hard to believe.

The book is about a President Jonathan Duncan, whose bravery as a POW during the the war in Iraq helped him get elected. He is facing a crisis and one he can't tell others about, that may start with a cyberattack that can quickly escalate into bigger problem, including possible deaths. From the beginning the president is encountering pressure, and sometimes threats, not just from his political opponents but some from his own party as well. And someone in his inner circle is a leak. He has narrowed it down to six people who could be the leak, one of whom is his vice president.

Duncan, who is still mourning the recent loss of his wife, also has a chronic blood disease which at times means there's a doctor telling him he needs to stop and having medical procedures done when he's too busy dealing with emergencies to stop.

The most intriguing and interesting character in the book is the, well, I was going to say the bad guy but in this case the assassin is a woman named Bach, so named because is almost constantly listening to classical music on her earbuds.

The Guardian gets in this dig: "This novel is indeed missing several things, including a believeable plot and even the remotest sense of narrative tension." These are harsh but spot-on criticisms.

I should perhaps mention I'm a bit of a political junkie so I'm interested in Clinton, Obama and Biden, whether it's something they wrote or are fictional characters. And I smiled when, in the acknowledgement section, Clinton and Patterson thank "Hillary Clinton, who has lived with and worked against this threat and the consequences of unheeded warnings, for her constant encouragement and reminders to keep it real."

I give this book a 6. I hear there is a sequel of sorts but I refuse to read it. It was a quick read - I devoured it in one day.

#54 - Anywhere You Run by Wanda Morris. I decided to read this after seeing it recommended in CrimeReads list of the best crime novels of 2022 and upon learning it addresses the issues of racism, voting rights and abortion rights. The way she writes about these issues sparks the reader to question how far we have really come in this country.

The novel starts with Violet Richards' actions after being raped by a white man, who she then killed. Her family lives in Jackson, Mississippi in 1964, certainly not a time when she can explain to the police that her actions were in self defense.

Dewey, a white man she has been flirting with, thinks he's driving Violet to go see someone in her family out of town. He does not know he is being used, that she promised she would marry him to get this favor so she can get him to drive her out of town so she can then, when he's away from the car momentarily, steal his wallet and get on a bus and get the heck out of town. She does exactly that, traveling out of state, to Georgia.

Meanwhile, her sister, Marigold, also leaves town. While she intends to become a lawyer, Marigold must first deal with the fact that she is pregnant and no longer with the baby's father. Before leaving she has been  part of the Mississippi Summer Project, trying to help get more black people to be able to vote.  Three innocent men have been murdered for trying to help people in Mississippi secure the right to vote.

Dewey, obviously upset, is paying a man named Mercer to try to track down the women, adding to the tension. The reader does not know what exactly Dewey wants with Violet and Marigold but it can't be good. Dewey's father is a powerful man, leader of something called a Citizens Council, so racist he not only did not want black people to have civil rights but his group had orchestrated murders to make sure they did not get those rights.

This is one of those books where the perspective changes with each chapter, alternating between Violet, Marigold and Mercer. When written well, as it is here, this can be an effective technique. When it's not done well it can make things confusing for the reader. My favorite example of this technique was with Barbara Kingsolver's classic Poisonwood Bible.

The author, who also wrote the novel, All Her Little Secrets, said in an interview with CrimeReads that she was deciding what to write about next around the time of the 2020 elections and her home state, Georgia, and Texas, were passing legislation to make it harder for disenfranchised people to vote.

"I knew I wanted to explore all of that in my next book," she said. "Crossing over to the historical genre gave me the perfect backdrop to explore what had happened
back in the 1960s as Black People fought for the right to vote.

In her acknowledgements, Morris first thanks God "for blessing me with the gift and the opportunity to tell stories." She goes on to also thank "the librarians, booksellers, bookstagrammers, bloggers, podcasters, and, most of all, readers who took a chance on a new writer like me, you are my heroes for being so dedicated to those things we all love: books."

"So powerful! Though she's writing about the past, Wanda M. Morris tells a story that feels incredibly relevant today. With its menacing characters and emotionally wrenching situations, Anywhere You Run made me hold my breath for two wonderfully well-drawn heroines," writes author Rachel Howzell Hall.

I agree with tha assessment. This is one of those books that is not just a good thriller but is also thought-provoking and causing this reader to reflect on the past.

I give this a rare 9.


#55 - Girl In A Band by Kim Gordon. Gordon is a well-respected artist and musician, the co-founder of the popular, influential band Sonic Youth. She and the other co-founder, Thurston Moore, were not only together as a band but also as husband and wife. Then after about 27 years together Gordon realized Moore was having an affair and they broke up as a couple and as a band that had been around for about 30 years.  

In this insightful, fascinating memoir Gordon tells the reader about her life, from some of her early memories and about her parents through the formation of Sonic Youth, her ups and downs and the eventual ending of the band and her marriage.  

The title results from one of the most question journalists, usually men, asked: "What is it like being a girl in a band?" She said she never had a good answer to the question. I think this book does  finally provide her response. When she had her daughter, Coco, the question shifted to "What is it like being a rock-and-roll mom."  

She writes in detail about her sole brother, Keller, who she describes this way: "He was, and still is, brilliant, manipulative, sadistic, arrogant, almost unbearingly articulate. He's also mentally ill, a  paranoid schizophrenic. And maybe because he was so incessantly verbal from the start, I turned into his opposite, his shadow - shy, sensitive, closed to the point where to overcome my own hypersensitivity, I had no choice but to turn fearless."  

Keller, she said, is "the person who more than anyone else in the world shaped who I was, and who I turned out to be." One reason she is often shy, she said, “comes from years of being teased (by Keller) “for every feeling I ever expressed."  

Keller got into all kinds of trouble - including suffering a psychotic episode on the day of his graduation from the University of California, Berkeley, where he had earned a Master's degree - due to his then undiagnosed mental health problems and that affected
her upbringing as well as her relationships with him and their parents. Specifically, she said her relationship with her brother led her to be codependent on people for the rest of her life, including her future husband, Thurston Moore.  

Kim talks about various relationships she had including one with Danny Elfman, songwriter and
singer of the great band Oingo Boingo who has written many excellent soundtracks to films.  

For big fans of Sonic Youth they will probably like part of the second half of the book the most as that is when she devotes small chapters to each song she enjoyed writing and/or singing and talks about music video shoots. However, unlike some musicians, she does not go into detail on each of the albums they made which I think is understandable given the band made 15 studio albums, not counting live albums and songs on soundtracks.  

This section also has the gossip that the media latched onto when the book come out in 2015. Kim writes about meeting Kurt Cobain, who she praises, and his future wife, Courtney Love, who Kim describes as  "utterly self-absorbed." Before Kurt, Courtney was having a "secret affair" with Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins, who Kim describes as a "crybaby," whose music she says sucks.  

One of my favorite parts of the book talks about how their daughter, Coco, 16, started her own rock band. Coco was uncomfortable having her parents, rock and roll legends in their own right, watching her band. I mean, what pressure! Kim instead first watched the band through a video that was taken. "The voice was familiar, reminiscent of my own. The singer's
moves, too, were like mine, but more confident." A few weeks later Thurston and Kim went to their show but had to hid in back.  

Kim's not the kind of person who would let her husband's infidelity, leading to their separation and divorce and the band's break-up, stop her from being an artist. She then formed the group Body/Head. A collection of her early art writing was published. She does painting, in addition to other artistic endeavors, and there have been exhibitions of her art.  

It's an excellent book, very insightful work, helped by the fact Gordon is very self-aware.  

"I've always admired Kim Gordon. She is cool, smart, and dignified. Girl in a Band is a fascinating and honest memoir, full of raw emotion and insight" while Amy Poehler wrote,"Kim Gordon writes the way she plays. Fiercely, honestly, and with the creative abandon of a singular artist."   

Fellow rocker, and another "girl in a band," Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney writes, "The best thing one of your heroes can do is make you feel heroic yourself. Kim Gordon has done just that in her memoir; it is full of beauty and power, inspiration, kindness, boldness and hope."  

Reading the book I felt like I now knew Kim better, which I guess is one goal of a good memoir. I also came away with a deeper appreciation of Sonic Youth and the work of the band. I appreciated the way she wrote about her brother and their deep but difficult relationship. I give this book an 8.  

The book mentions a documentary I have been meaning to watch called 1991: The Year Punk Broke. The movie follows Sonic Youth while on tour along with Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr., Babes in Toyland, The Ramones and one or two other bands.  

The movie was filmed before Nirvana  became such a huge act. There is a lot of joking around by Thurston though I enjoyed more seeing Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain joking around. It's a reminder to the reviews that while Kurt's lyrics was so serious he had a fun side.  

As the New York Times review of the documentary says, "As definitive as (the movie) is, it might have remained a footnote if one of those musicians wasn't a pre-fame Kurt Cobain. His presence elevates the footage from documentary to both fetish item and cautionary tale." The review goes on to add that part of the fascination with watching this documentary is knowing the "seismic changes about to happen to the musicians." It's reference to Cobain "mugging for the camera with the energy of a child at a rollicking birthday party."  

The film's working title was Tooth or Hair, a play on the Madonna tour film "Truth or Dare," which was released that year. The bands make jokes about Madonna's actions in that film.  

The movie is directed by Dave Markey, who has been making videos and movies with punk bands for many years before making this movie, including some before he even turned 18.  

At more than 3 hours, when you include the bonus material, there is a lot of music performed by Sonic Youth and Nirvana, along with the other bands. This includes a 40-minute film about Nirvana that was not included in the original film but was put together after Cobain's death and Nirvana's demise.  

I would be lying if I said I learned more about Kim and Sonic Youth by watching this, except perhaps to be reminded that they too had a fun side, but if you like the music of Sonic Youth and Nirvana then you will enjoy this documentary, which I picked up at the Austin library.  

  #56- Jane Harper's Exiles. I jumped at the chance to read this as I really enjoyed Harper's
firsts two book in the series about federal investigator Aaron Falk: The Dry and Force of Nature. They are clever, well-plotted with fascinating characters.

Before the story begins, the author writes a thank you to the readers: "For the readers,
who make these books what they are."

Exiles, set in Southern Australia, is about a woman, Kim, a mother, who has disappeared, presumed dead. Only her daughter refuses to admit Kim is gone and successfully lobbies groups of volunteers to search for her, about one year later. Falk knows the family and returns to visit them a year after the incident in which Kim entered into a park and, according to cameras, never left. One of her shoes was found near a reservoir. The reason for the visit is a celebration or a new addition to the family.

As he gets to better know this family and community Falk starts to wonder if those close to him there are lying or at least keeping secrets. And he hopes to learn something that will help crack the case. There is another case he'd also like to solve - a drunk driver had killed the husband of a woman Falk cared about. Her son, six years later, is still awaiting answers, to the point of keeping in his room all that time a jar with paint chips from the accident. Falk solves both cases but I was surprised by the results of each.

"Harper is to Australia what Tana French is to Ireland: a writer whose psychologically
rich plots are matched by a deep understanding of place," writes the Washington Post while
the Christian Science Monitor writes, "Intense, deeply intelligent psychological
thrillers that explore how our pasts - especially our childhoods - mold and disrupt
our lives in the present."

This is another great thriller with much emotional depth and I give it an 8. I kept thinking about it days later. I suggest you give this series a try, starting with The Dry, available at many local libraries, including here in Austin.  

Speaking of Dry, they made a film of it and I saw that recently. It's well done. Actor Eric Bana does an admirable job playing Falk. I always find the book is better than the movie but this movie is an excellent adaptation. There are plans to also make a movie out of Force of Nature, the second book in the series. It is scheduled to be
released in August.

#57 - Dr. No and the Trees by Percival Everett. I heard about Dr. No via positive buzz. This is a satire of James Bond and espionage fiction and an excellent thriller.  Unlike James Bond movies, the two main characters are black. Wala Kitu is a professor whose area of study is nothing. He is not what you would call street smart. He and a female topology professor are hired with bonuses of more than $1 million as a consultant by billionaire villain John Sill,
whose goal is to break into Fort Knox, in which he expects to find a shoebox containing, you guessed it, nothing. Still's ultimate goal, though, is to become a literal James Bond villain.  

Another way it's different from a typical James Bond story is that whenever Gloria, a cute henchwoman working for Sills offers to have sex withWala, he just politely says no thanks. As the New York Times puts it, this is "violating rule No. 1 of Bondian masculinity: Desire is always desirable."  

At one point Wala is told this: "Professor, think of it this way. This country has never given anything to us and it never will. We have given everything to it. I think it's time we gave nothing back." Sills has been seeking vengeance since seeing his father and Martin Luther King Jr. murdered.  

Wala has a one-legged dog named Trigo who debates topics with him, which makes me wish my cats did the same.  

Everett manages to tell a story not unlike a James Bond story while mocking it at the same time, except for the fact that there is no clear James Bond character himself except possibly Wala, just the villian part. And, oh, yes, Sill is evil, when he gets a disappointing report by a coallege he gets the man thrown into shark-filed water.  

Sill wants to control nothing so he turns a Massachusetts town named Quincy into nothing - one minute it is there, the next it's not only gone but it's also not showing on GPS.  

Sill has made many millions during nefarious things. Wala and his colleague, who often gets drugged by Sill and others, had no idea what they signed up for and try to stop things.  

Dr. No. was a finalist for the 2023 National Book Critics award for fiction and I can see why - this is damn good stuff. Very creative, wildly so. I give it a 8.  

Which brings me to one of his critically acclaimed prior books, the Trees,  which I also had recommended to me. This novel published in 2001 is much more serious than Dr. No and gets quite emotional at times, at least for this reader. These two books could not be more dissimilar, one full of wit, the other full of sadness and tragedy. I think this shows how talented this author must be to write two very different, but excellent, books.  

When detectives from the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations come to Money, Mississippi, to look into a series of brutal murders they find at each  crime scene a second dead body, a man resembling Emmett Till. While the crime scenes vary it's usually a dead white man with his testicles removed next to a dead black man.  

The first body found is that of Junior Junior, who is a relative of Carolyn Bryant, the white woman whose accusations against Emmett Till got him killed. In recent years, as the
book notes, she has attempted to making false allegations but that's too little, too late, for the Till family. Everett has good attention to detail. For example, Money, Miss., is where Emmett Till was visiting when he encountered Bryant and was subsequently murdered.  

The detectives reach the conclusion these killings are retribution for the original murder of Emmett Till, especially when they learn that the first two men killed were sons of the guys who originally killed Till. But who is doing the killings? Soon they are similar murders happening all over the country. What is happening? Copycats?  

Everett, the author of more than 20 novels, clearly did his research for this project. He said in an interview that he purchased enough books researching lynching that he essentially developed "a lynching section in his library." While this book is much more serious than Dr. No, there is still some humor, which Everett attributes to the influence of Mark Twain.  

Carole V. Bell, in a review for NPR, said the novel is a "combination of whodunnit, horror, humor and razor blade sharp insight." Writer Joyce Carol Oates described it as "really profound writing... about subjects of great tragic and political significance" while Mary F. Corey wrote in a review that the novel included a "Twainian level of wit and meanness."  

Everett's book, appropriately shortlisted for the 2022 Book Prize, forces the reader to think directly about racism, police violence and whether violent retribution is ever appropriate. I give it a 9. 

#58 - Seventeen Last Man Standing by John Brownlow. I picked up this book from the new arrivals
racks at the library based on the plot as described by the book jacket. The premise is
that for many years there has been one main assassin who kills world leaders and business folks when
diplomacy doesn't work out. The main character is 17, "the most feared assassin in the world."
There have been 16 of these assasins before and after he kills #16 he will be in charge, at
least until #18 comes at him. It is implied that this is the first of a new series.

Brownlow wrote the film Sylvia, about the relationship between Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes,the TV
series Fleming, about Ian Fleming, and the TV series The Miniaturist, adapted from a novel.

My favorite blurb about this book comes from author Travis Knight: "Seventeen is a thriller with soul.
(The author) has crafted a muscular and delightfully subversive novel with quick wit, a wicked
sense of humor, and real heart beating  underneath its rippling pectorals. It's like a Bond movie
made by the Coen brothers."

The book, whose film rights have already been sold, is dedicated thus: "For my mother, who taught
me the importance of having enemies."

I found the book quite inventive and, as Knight notes, witty. The author does not go too
far in describing the images of those killed. It also some amazing twists.  I liked the book and give
it an 8. If there is a second book I will read it. 


#59 - Howdunit: A Masterclass in Crime Writing By Members of the Detection Club, edited by Martin Edwards. The title is a take-off of the Whodunit question often about asked about crime fiction. The Detection Club is the world's longest-running professional writing group, founded by authors Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and their friends. Edwards is the current president of the club.  

Club members have to agree to an oath: "Do you promise that your detectives shall well and truly detect the crimes presented to them using those with which it may please you to bestow upon them and not placing reliance on nor making use of Divine Revelation, Feminine Intuition, Mumbo Jumbo, Jiggery-Pokery, Coincidence or Act of God?" I had to look up what "jiggery-pokery" meant - it means deceitful or dishonest behavior.  

To celebrate the club's 90th birthday Edwards had an idea: Have 90 authors each write an essay about their craft. Thus we have 90 leading crime novelists writing about their job and what aspiring crime writers should know, everything from the important of a good opening sentence to deciding when to switch perspectives to keeping the dialogue sounding real and authentic to how to best end a crime novel.  

All 90 authors are current or past members of the club. If you like crime fiction writers I can pretty much guarantee you will recognize some of the names included here, including Ian Rankin, Ngaio Marsh, Val McDermid,  P.D. James, Christie  and Sayers, of course, Reginald Hill, John Le Carre, Peter James, and Len Deighton, to name a few. The book is dedicated to Deighton, who was elected president of the club in 1969 and was the longest-serving member. The final essay in the book is by Deighton.  

Rankin has an excellent essay titled "Why Crime Fiction Is Good for You," which made me feel better about my addiction to the genre. For example, he writes, "Crime writers throughout the world have known for years that the crime novel can be a perfect tool for the dissection of society."  

Natasha Cooper addresses a pet peeve of mine. She suggests aspiring writers be careful when naming characters: "When you are considering what to call your characters, do think about the reader. Similar-looking - or similar-sounding - names can make it hard to keep each person
distinct. You will know who they are, but for the reader Dave, Dan and Dick will merge into each, as will Maeve, Steve and Niamh."  

Now I should warn you of something: This book is a dense 463 pages and I have to admit at that length I did not read every line on every page, especially when it was either advice by authors I had never heard of or advice I'd read elsewhere. But what I did read was  fascinating, revealing, educational and entertaining. I particularly enjoyed when authors I liked made revealing comments about why they did this or that decision in their books. I give this a 9 for mystery lovers, 8 for those not into the genre but just wanting to learn more.   


#60 - A Time of Torment by John Connolly. This is one of the best books of Connolly's stellar series about private investigator Charlie Parker. I read a lot of crime fiction and feel it's important for authors to have their protagonists be different in same way. For example, one reason I really liked Lawrence Block's series about private investigator Matthew Scudder was that he was a recovering alcoholic, which was both distinctive and possibly a response of
sorts to the decades of crime noir fictions in which most of the detectives seem to be working alcoholics. Since that time many other authors also created protagonists who were alcohol, which was no longer an original concept

In Connolly's case, what's distinctive about Parker is that in events that happened even before his first novel was placed the detective's wife and daughter were killed, presumably as vengeance against something he did. Thus throughout the books Parker is haunted by those memories, and even sometimes sees his daughter as a ghost of sorts. Knowing this background makes it even more believable for the reader that he seeks justice, often through violence means, against those who have hurt others. And woe to those he encounters who have hurt children.

In this thriller, Parker has an unusual situation as he is hired by a man who believes he is about to at least be kidnapped and, possibly, be killed. Which indeed happens and this is not a spoiler. His character's story is a fascinating one, of a type can easily imagine happening in real life as every so often there is a case where someone becomes a hero and everyone loves him and he gets lots of media attention and then he is deemed a villain and everyone turns
on him. I have read think pieces suggesting America's media culture loves nothing more than to turn heroes into villains. Think Richard Jewell. Think Robert Oppenheimer, who is on my mind since I have been eagerly waiting for months for the movie about him to come out.

Jerome Burnel, the hero turned villain due to child porn allegations he claims are fake, meets with a skeptical Parker and his even more skeptical associates, Louis and Angel, to see if he will take him on as a client. Parker hasn't completely decided if he will take Burnel on before what Burnel said would happen - that he, like others he knew, would be disappeared. What sounded like a conspiracy was starting to appear to be true. Fortunately, Burnel had arranged all his paperwork with his lawyer before disappearing and Parker, of course, takes the case.

What made Burnel a hero was this: He stopped at a gas station and was inside it when a man entered who began shooting people but Burnel intervened and  prevented multiple killings. It was not long after this that he was, to hear him tell it, framed, with law enforcement finding "evidence" suggesting Burnel was in possession of child porn. He went off to jail. By the time he got back out people he knew were disappearing and he was starting to "see"  people who he thought might hurt him next. He even saw one such person while meeting with Parker.

There is a strange, isolated community known as the Cut where people terrorize others with intimidation and violence. Somehow - it is not initially clear exactly how - Burnel did something to bring on their wrath. He and Parker suspect that Burnel's heroic actions disturbed the Cut, who were probably responsible for planting the child porn evidence. Brunel thinks the reason he was repeatedly raped while in prison was also because the Cut ordered
that to happen.

I have to confess I was a bit skeptical initially that I would find this "community" plausable but when I hit the 100 page mark, at what place I usually do what I call the Butki test where I check to see if I'm engaged with the characters and/or the plot and would like to continue on, I realize just how hooked I was in this story and so I continued on and am glad I did.

This is an excellent story with lots of twists and turns. Connolly is not only great at crafting fascinating plots but also at writing characters that are well-drawn, be it some of the truly evil leaders of the Cut or some of his Parker's friends and colleagues, or just Parker himself. Frankly, I just enjoy spending time with them, regardless of how much violence is happening around them. I have read at least ten books in the series and this is
my favorite so far. I give it a rare 9.

#61 - Destroy All Monsters: The Last Rock Novel by Jeff Jackson. They say don't judge a book by its cover but what if the cover shows someone pointing a gun directly at the reader's face. That's on the front cover, labelled Side A. On the back side, labelled, of course, Side B, you see the back of the woman's head and the gun is no longer pointing your way.

Further examination reveals side A is labelled My Dark Ages and side B is labelled Kill City. As I suspects this means which ever cover you start with there's a story or, to be more clear, the book has two stories starting on opposite sides of the book. Each cover has a book flap explaining the plot line, though the descriptions are slightly different, there are two author blurbs on one cover and two blurbs from different authors on the opposite cover.

The book refers to The Dark Ages as "a love song for a dying world." Destroy All Monsters, the book flap explains, "features familiar characters in surprising roles, and burrows deeper into the methods and motivations of the killers. Following an alternate history, it focuses on a memorial service service for a slain singer that culminates in a dramatic all-night bender with perilous chases and musical reveries, and traces the many paths to overcoming loss."

By this point I'm definitely intrigued enough to read this book, especially when I read that the plotline involves unknown people in concert audiences killing rock musicians while performing on stag. There are no known motives and it's unclear if it's the same killer or if there are copycats or what.

After momentary hesitation as I try to determine which cover to begin with, I begin reading. In The Dark Ages we meet Xenie, a music fan repulsed by the violence of this epidemic - for that's what they are calling these killings of rockers - but drawn deeper into it all. It doesn't help that her boyfriend, Shawn, is in a rock band himself. And he gets killed on stage.

There is a tribute concert set up and Xenie knows the boys in the only band willing to play, a few of them were life-long friends of Shawn. I don't want to say more for fear of revealing spoilers.

The author is a singer-songwriter in a band called Julian Calendar, which tracks as the author seems to know what he is writing about, particularly regarding  the lives of musicians.

As the book flap implied, Side B is a bit of a trip. Characters who are alive and well in Si
de A are already dead near the start of Side B and characters dead in Side A are alive in Side B. There are other changes. Eddie, a major character in Side A, is spelled Edie, in Side B, with no explanation for the change.

Author Janet Fitch writes of Side A: "This taut, atmospheric rock-and-roll thriller touches a raw nerve with its subject matter... Add the artist's struggle for authentic power and the carrot of fame - Destroy All Monsters is rock enough for anyone."

This is a very ballsy, ambitious project but the author manages to pull it off, telling a great story with intriguing characters. It probably helped matters that I listened to rock music while reading this book about rockers getting killed. I was particularly impressed with Side B, as it took a story the reader has just and tells parts of the story again but from different perspectives and focusing on different characters. I give this an 8.5

#62 - The Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee Book by Jerry Seinfeld. The title explains it all - this is a book about Seinfeld's popular show. I enjoy watching the show, more for the comedy and conversation, than for the cars or the coffee. The book is mostly photographs and excerpts from the conversations Jerry has had with the comedians, including some of my favorites: Trevor Noah, Tina Fey, Jon Stewart, Seth Myers, etc.

The series appears to be over since it has not had new episodes since 2019. I  give the book a 8. I have heard this book is even better when listened to so you can hear the comedians voices.     

Also, this is proof I DO read things besides biographies and memories, about music and,
of course, crime novels.

#63 - Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone and Trust Me When I Lie by Benjamin Stevenson. I am not sure where I first heard of Everyone but I immediately put it on hold and six months later - apparently others also heard it was a good book - I have read this homage to crime fiction. Both books are set in Australia and are quite well done and very clever.  

The title of the book is true - everyone in the family has indeed killed someone. "Some of us, the high achievers, have killed more than once," the protagonist/narrator writes in the prologue. In the acknowledgements section he thanks his family for their support and adds, "Also, no one in my family has actually killen anyone. To my knowledge, anyway." Imagine being the author's family reading about this fictional family.  

This author has created a great character in Ernie Cunningham, who goes by Ern, who loves to read and write about crime fiction and is part of a notorious crime family. Three years ago, he witnessed his brother, Michael, kill a man and then Ern turned him in to the police. The
family is now gathering to welcome Michael back, which I am sure will not be akward at all.  

This is the family's first time together since Michaels's trial. Also, at Michael's request, Ern kept the money the dead man had with him, totaling $267,000, and while Ern plans to return
this money to Michael he hopes he does not notice some of it is missing. And, now his stepsister wants $50,000 of it.  

The reunion is happening at a remote mountain resort and the day before his brother's arrival a man's body is found frozen on the slopes. Most of the family thinks the man just died due to hypothermia but Ern's sister figures out that the man's airway are clogged with ash, which would suggest he died in a fire except there are no burn marks and the snowfield is pristine.  

With the police and others stumped, Ernie decides he must solve the case and to do so he will rely on the knowledge gained by reading Holmes, Christie, Chesterton, etc. The plotting is fascinating with the author, for example, mentioning on page 32 that a relative will punch
him (or attempt to) in chapter 32.  

The protagonist mocks some tropes of crime fiction, including when a female character, Sofia, pukes. "I'll hold it here to mention that I know some authors are incapable of having a woman throw up without it being a clue to a pregnancy. These seem authors see to think nausea is the
only indication of childbearing, not to mention their belief that vomit shoots out the woman's mouth within hours of plot-convenient fertilization. By some authors, I mean male ones. Far be it from me to tell you which clues to pay attention to, but Sofia's not pregnant, okay?
She's allowed to throw up of her own volition."  

Stevenson is a comedian and his wit is apparent here. At one point early on he writes, "I'm actually 38 in this bit, 41 when we catch up to the present day, but I thought if I shaved a couple of years off it might help my publisher pitch this to a big-name actor." Or this
about his sister's work he writes: "She describes it as a business and tenses up whenever anyone says that specific work. So out of respect, I won't use it I'll just say the Egyptians built them."  

The book jacket describe it this way: "Knives Out and Clue meet Agatha Christie and The Thursday Murder Club in this fiendishly clever blend of classic and modern murder mystery."  

Jane Harper, who wrote the excellent thrillers The Dry and The Exiles, writes, "I absolutely loved it... especially fresh, smart, funny."  

I agree with Jane Harper, whose books are also set in Australia, that this is an excellent novel, with intriguing characters, some fun parts, great plotting and a satisfying conclusion after much is revealed in a room where all the players are assembled, a common mystery trope he is both using and satirizing in this meta murder story. It's the kind of book where, the day after I finish it, I went back to re-read the last 50 pages because it was so beautifully and carefully crafted I wanted to see how the author pulled it off. I give this book a 9. The book is going to be adapted into a major HBO TV series.  

The second book of his that I reviewed is called Trust Me When I Lie, which is the first of a series he wrote about a character named Jack Quick.  

A sketchy tv producer named Jack Quick has become quite popular and in demand due to a true-crime docuseries he helped make. It's focus is on the question of whether Curtis Wade murdered a young woman four years ago. With first his podcast then with his tv series Jack raises questions suggesting maybe Curtis was not guilty of the murder. While looking for clues at the murder scene he founds one of the victim's shoes, which he  keeps at home and the longer he does not turn that potential evidence in the police the more strange it would look for him to submit it at this late point.  

There is a retrial, Curtis walks free and then Quick's world comes crashing down when there is a new murder victim. Jack feels awful as he feels, naturally, some responsibility as he may have just helped set free the murderer. And the police can't arrest and prosecute Curtis since that would break double jeopardy rules.  

Jack goes back to reinvestigate the case to see what actually took place, find out what he and possibly the police missed. A meeting between Jack and Curtis after the murder is especially intense.  

Author Harper writes, "An outstanding debut - confident, compelling, with a surprise around every corner. I loved it. Author J.P. Smith writes, "Clever as hell and as timely as it gets, this is definitely one of the must-read thrillers of the season." I agree with both authors. It's an excellent thriller worth checking out, with intriguing characters, great plot twists and captures the sketchy feel but appeal of true crime. I give it an 8. It has an interview with the author and a "reading group guide."  

Reading that novel prompted me to watch a movie I've been meaning to see for years: Nightcrawler with Jake Gyllenhal, about a man covering the high speed world of L.A. crime, often using appalling, unethical methods, including messing with crime scenes. As with Trust Me, the film addresses what happens when an observer becomes a participant in a story he is covering. I found it hard and unsettling to watch but that may be because, as a former newspaper reporter, I'm extra sensitive to ethics in journalism. I give the film an 8.

#64 - City On Fire and City of Dreams by Don Winslow. These are the first two books of a new trilogy by Winslow, who has been critically acclaimed for some time and for good reason. The third book in the trilogy, titled City of Ashes, is scheduled to be published in 2024.
The books, essentially about two feuding drug families, one Irish and one Italian, in Rhode Island in the 1980s and 1990s, are already in the process of being adapted by Sony into a television. Winslow wrote the amazing Cartel trilogy: The Power of The Dog, The Cartel
and the Border.

I first got to know Winslow from his novel, Savages, and its sequel, The Kings of Cool, which involved people getting into trouble when they go against the wishes of the drug cartel. I suspect his research for the Savages novel led to his writing the drug cartel trilogy.

Winslow, a former investigator, anti-terrorist trainer and trial consultant, has stated he plans to retire from writing - this trilogy will be his final books- so he can turn his attention full time to his political activism, which include making and posting videos. He knows what he is doing and his videos are popular: A less than 3-minute video he made that was critical of Trump and featured the  Bruce Springsteen song "streets of Philadelphia" has been viewed almost 10 million times. I just watched it for the first time and I felt chills, as it is quite emotional and power, and can see how it went viral. In all, as of April 2022, his videos have  received over 250 million views.

If he is really retiring from writing, these are excellent books with which to end his writing career. They showcase his amazing talents at not just writing plots but his dialogue is so good it reminds me of Elmore Leonard, who is famous in crime fiction circles for how good
his dialogue was.

The books have good plots and even better plot twists. They contain some characters who you want to cheer on and others you find repugnant, and when some characters die it's not always the ones you were secretly hoping would die.

The main character is Danny Ryan, who is part of criminal life who years to go legit but circumstances don't allow for that. Partly because of this shady career he has one of the most dysfunctional families I have ever read. While Danny makes some terrible decisions the readers, or at least this reader, feels bad for him and wishes him luck. I give book one an 8.

After the first book ends in a violent climax I can't explain without spoilers the second book begins with Danny on the West Coast away from the many who want him dead and trying to get in further trouble with law enforcement, living and working under a fake name.

Ryan has new problems. For example, his daughter kills herself and his wife blames him for ignoring warning signs including her cutting herself. But then his life takes a turn when he is spotted, albeit briefly, by someone who knew him from his "old" life and this leads to many dramatic plot twists, Winslow remaining excellent at twists and turns in a story.

Meanwhile, you know how Hollywood loves makes movies about gangs? Some guy who was in periphery of the drug wars wrote a pitch which became a script which is becoming a movie. When Danny and his associates learn people are going to profit off of the crap he went though, well, you just know that isn't going to go well. I can't say more without revealing spoilers but let's just say Winslow seems to have fun playing with characters from Hollywood including the stereotypical female star who can make a movie just as soon as she finishes going through rehab.

The second book in the series is also excellent. I give it an 8. 


#65 - The Devil Takes You Home by Gabino Iglesias. This book came to my attention since it was on CrimeReads list of the best crime novels of 2022. When I read about the plot and learned the author is a writer, journalist, professor and literary critic here in Austin, I knew I had to read this. The book is dedicated to "A mi familia and to the city of Austin, for trying to kill me." I'm not sure what that means but I thought it worth mentioning.  

Mario has problems, including major financial debt from the medical bills as his daughter, Anita, has been diagnosed with leukemia, which only makes his troubled marriage worse. With some reluctance, to make ends meet, he takes a job as a hit man and finds he enjoys committing violence and he likes the money. When things get worse he agrees to a final job: hijacking a drug cartel's cash shipment before it reaches its destination in Mexico. If all goes right he will be $200,000 richer and if not then he may get killed.  

This is excellent noir that kept me spellbound. By the time they leave on their trip his daughter has died and his wife has left him and he is not all together focused on this project and is sometimes seeing things that may not be there. Meanwhile, Brian, is also having trouble. Brian set Mario up with the hit jobs and arranged Mario's meeting with Juanca, who has the dirt on how the three of them - Mario, Brian and Juanco - can pull this heist off.  

Before they even leave Brian is looking awful - he later admits he's trying to go cold turkey on a drug addiction so he can be clean for his wife and, soon, their child. Maybe this is not the best time to abstain from his addiction. Mario realizes Juanca is bent on revenge and,
Mario the narrator says, "Revenge is as normal to humans as hunger or thirst. We need it. We crave it whenever we feel we feel someone has done us wrong. But it also makes you do dumb shit."  

The novel, through its characters and their actions, confront the racial harassment many Latinx encounter, especially the closer you get to the border.  Juanco even alludes to President Trump making people feel it is ok to be so racist.  

The story is intense and scary. We have all read those books that you just can't put down until you finish and end up staying up all night to finish it. This was the opposite, at least for me: I would read only a chapter or two then find myself getting anxious and worried about what awful thing is going to happen next to these characters, especially to Mario who, while having done some bad things, didn't deserve to have terrible things to happen to him.  So I read a few chapters a day until finally, halfway through the book, I decided, I just need to get this over with and I read the rest of the book and I won't say nobody was harmed or everyone died, because neither is true and either would be terrible spoilers. I'll just say it was complicated but well plotted and described.  

"The line between noir and horror not only gets blurred in (this book); it gets obliterated... profoundly moving, despairing and scary all at once," writes author Brian Evenson while author David Heska Wanbli Weiden writes, "Strap yourself in for this astonishing novel... Unforgettable characters, a pulse-pounding story, and a few scene that will haunt you until the end of your days. Not since Denis Johnson's Angels have we seen desperate characters
like this, not to mention incandescent prose that is relentlessly brave, urgent, and honest."  

This book is quite well done. It had more horror than I am used to and I have read enough new stories about violence, especially near the border, by drug gangs to know this fiction wasn't too far from reality. It's gripping. If you want to read a good, intense, somewhat violent, story then check this book out. I give it an 8. Warning: The book is written in English and Spanish, almost exclusively during dialogue, which means for people like me who know almost no Spanish you may get a little confused but the important statements are then translated in English.  

As the New York Times explained, "Though contextual hints of meaning are ample, most of the book’s non-English dialogue is untranslated and unvarnished, reflecting how millions of people actually talk in Texas, whether in downtown El Paso or the grittier parts of Austin."  

Incidentally, the author was a teacher, writing this in bits and pieces during lunch break. Then Covid hit and he,like everyone, was sent home. Which gave him plenty of time to write this masterpiece. See, something good did come out of the Covid era! I give this an 8.


#66 - Vampire Weekend by Michael Chen. I saw this on the new releases section in the library
and the title made me pause. When I grasped the idea that the novel somehow incorporated
vampires and punk rock I decided I had to read this. While the title is the same as a band
I otherwise found no connection.

While I am not a fan of vampire books and movies I'm a sucker for a great opening paragraph. This is the one for this novel: "There's one rule we vampires live by: Never reveal your true nature to a human.
Which makes sneezing blood during band practice kind of a problem."
The narrator, a vampire, blamed the problem on "nose tickles." The narrator explains "for a vampire, like me, music was nearly as important as blood," which is why she is auditioning for the third band in two months. There is garlic nearby, sparking the sneeze and bleeding from the eyes and ruining another audition. I could relate. I mean, who hasn't had this happen to you, what with all the allergies in Austin? Or felt like it was happening?

The book jacket has some great blurbs: "A propulsive, poignant ode to vampire mythos, human connection, and the enduring power of punk rock," writes Sarah Kuhn while Gwenda Bond says, "Mike Chen is at his best here, with a shark-as-fangs reinvention of the  vampire mythos centered on the power of family, born and chosen, and, of course, punk rock. This book will sink its teeth right into your heart."

The book is about Louise Chao, a lonely vampire living in San Francisco. What you think you know about vampire is wrong, she tells us: They don't don't turn into bats and fly, for example, and they don't murder people. Instead, it's about blood bags and night jobs. She works, of course, at a blood bank where she, er, disposes of soon-to-expire bags. Oh and one advantage of immortality is she has been able to go to punk rock shows for decades. Each chapter starts with dispelling another myth about vampires. Personally, I like that vampires have their own app - it's a nice touch. I can definitely imagine for them to get their own app after using signal and/or slack.

Then Louise finally feels a connection - it's to a long-lost teenage relative named Ian who shows up at her door. She likes that he has a bad attitude and also loves punk music. The attitude is understandable: Ian's lost his father and his mother is in the hospital, headed toward hospice.

Ian is very excited to see Louise has many guitars, each named after a favorite musician, including Emmylou, after Emmylou Harris. She begins to teach him how to play some classics, as well as educate him about music genres. Yes, even, despite his complaints, about disco. He even learns to play Joy Division's great song, Transmission.

However, Ian is dangerously close to learning Louse is a vampire. At one point he sees what looks like some blood in her backpack at one point but she convinces him it's actually old cranberry juice.

Chen, who has studied and written about geek culture for years, dedicates the novel to "the
musicians in my life."

I loved this story, though I am biased in that I love punk music, original stories, new authors and a well plotted, clever story. This is all that and a bag of chips. I give it a 8.

I'm not really into vampire stories -  sorry, Anne Rice - but I like how the entertaining novel doesn't romanticize vampires so much as show what their life might be like in this era, and them liking live music is a bonus. I give this an 8.

#67 - We Know You Remember and You Will Never Be Found by Tove Alsterdal. We Know You Remember is the first book in a series entitled the High Coast Series. This dark story was named Swedish Crime Novel of the Year. As it begins a man named Olof Hagstrom parks near his old home and notices something is amiss. He enters, smells an awful stench, sees a panicked dog and water pooling on the floor. He investigates, following the flood of water to the bathroom, where he finds his father dead in the bathroom shower.  

The police are called out to investigate and when they learn of Olof's involvement it brings back memories, first for the police officers but soon for all who live in the area. About 20 years earlier Olof was found guilty of raping and murdering a local girl. Too young to be sentenced he was instead sent to a youth home and exiled from his family. He has never  returned... until now. The locals are mad he is back and it's not long before
his father's home, while Olof is inside it, is set on fire and he barely survives.  

The book, which deals with guilt and memories, is a good crime story with lots of excellent plot twists. I give this thought-provoking book an 8. It won both the Best Swedish Crime Novel of the Year Award and the Glass Key Award for Best Nordic Crime Novel.  

A few weeks after reading that book I saw You Will Never Be Found, the second book in this series. As with the first book it details with the same geographic area and our protagonist, police officer Eira Sjodin. She is looking into a missing person, reported by his ex-wife. Although he he has a nice apartment the police instead find him dead, in an abandoned building, with two fingers cut off. By interviewing family and friends the author gets the
reader thinking about grief and loss. Eira knows about loss, as her mother has lost many of her memories due to dementia. After months of trying she has got her move to move into a nursing home.  

Eira begins a casual relationship with a violent crimes police investigator, G.G., who is 20 years her senior, and her boss. When he doesn't show up for work two days in a row there is concern something may be wrong, especially since he has gone missing in the middle of an investigation. Is his disappearance connected to the case is he working? Is he alive? Sorry, I can't answer those questions.  

This is another excellent novel, which I give an 8.

#68 - Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading: Finding and Losing Myself in Books by Maureen Corrigan. I am a long-time fan of Corrigan, who I know mostly from NPR's program, Fresh Air, one of my favorite radio programs, where she is the program's book reviewer. She writes, "That job continues to be the highlight of my professional life." She does a book review for Fresh Air about once a week. Her reviews and essays have also been published in many magazines
and newspapers including the New York Times. She won an Edgar Award for criticism and writes a weekly mystery column in the Washington Post. Corrigan also teaches literature at Georgetown University.

The book is dedicated to her father and her husband, "two champion readers, two great dads." Indeed, she writes about how seeing her dad reading, every  night after work, is part of why started to read and stuck with it, even when her mom was trying to get to put down the book and do something else instead.

In this memoir Corrigan writes about how she started as an early reader and has never let up. She talks about which books and authors most interested her and shaped her and what interesting trends she has noted in modern fiction. She notes, for example, at how most extreme-adventure tales, like Perfect Storm and Into The Air, are written by men so she compiles a list of similar books by women throughout the centuries.

In her introduction she writes, "It's not that I don't like people. It's just that there always comes a moment when I'm in the company of others - even my nearest and dearest - when I'd rather be reading a book."

The Gothamist writes, "What will most draw fellow bookworms in and delight them about Corrigan's book is her appreciation of how books can be like people - affecting you in ways you were not expecting, pushing you when you need the push, and forcing you to look at your own life differently... A heart-felt journey through life and literature and its transects." I also like this Detroit Free Press blurb: "Corrigan is erudite without being the least bit pretentious... Dipping into (the book) is a little like visiting that friend whose house is always full of books and who always sends you home with one you're excited to read."

I love detective stories and noir so was delighted that she had a chapter about how she also shares that love and what she likes and dislikes about this genre and talks about which female detective writers she most enjoys reading. I took down some names to read, including Lisa Scottoline.

She also writes about very personal non-book topics including what it was like adopting a child from China and the terribly ignorant people say to her and her child about it, e.g. asking loud enough for the child to hear if her parents are both dead.

I like that in her acknowledgements she thanks her husband, who "read every page of this manuscript at least three times. We are still married. Those two seemingly incompatible facts testify to his intellectual rigor, his loving and active involvement in my work, and his terrific sense of humor."

If you like reading, and I assume everyone looking at these words does, and likes books, this memoir is fascinating, a glimpse at a reader who has enviable jobs and her insights into fiction. She is also a feminist so she points out sexism and misogyny in literature that I admittedly have not given enough thought to before. I love a book that gets me excited and engaged while also giving me much for thought. I read this book every night before bed and
would often wake up still thinking about what I read the night before. I give this a 8.

#69 - Killing Moon by Jo Nesbo. A few years I devoured almost all of Nesbo's excellent Harry Hole series but then had to stop. I paused because while the  thrillers are great - full of excellent plots and plot twists, intriguing characters and Hole himself is so vengeful as to be horrifying at times while other times he is so relatable - - they are incredibly violent. And the descriptions of that violence and his struggles with alcoholism are hard to stomach,
especially if you read several of his books in a short period of time.  

Vanity Fair nails it when it writes, "Nesbo explores the darkest criminal minds with grim delight and puts his killers where you least expect to find them... His novels are maddeningly addictive."  

This past year I decided to go back and finish reading the rest of the books in the series. I was caught up right around the time this, his newest book in the series, was published. I patiently waited for what seemed like years but was probably about four months for it to become my turn to get it - there were about 90 people in line ahead of me in the hold line.  

Killing Moon was worth the wait. As it starts two women are missing and the only apparent connection is they both attended a party put on by a famous real estate magnate named Markus Reed. The first of the two is found murdered and her body is marked in a way to make them think the killer will strike again.  

Detectives begin to ask their higher-ups if they can get their best murder detective back, that being Harry Hole. But Hole is in Los Angeles, drinking himself to death after being fired from the force and thus having to stop doing what he did best.  

Hole has no interest in returning to Oslo until the woman he is living with faces great peril and, at gunpoint, he agrees to return to Oslo to find the killer. Meanwhile, some bad guys have kidnapped his girlfriend and she will be freed once he solves the crimes, provided he does so in ten days. No pressure. He puts together a team together go solve this mystery.  

The man who hired him to solve the case is Markus Reed, yes, the same magnate who is the police's main suspect in the case. This leads to questions about whether it's right for a former police detective to run what sure sounds like a police investigation with a team that includes some who were also previously cops.  

As with all good Harry Hole novels there are good twists and turns, and even some humor. I particularly enjoyed a subplot that involved tough Harry playing games with a 3-year-old boy. It's good to have Harry back. I give this a 9. 

#70 - One Night Stands And Lost Nights and Tanner On Ice by Lawrence Block and Hellcats and Honeygirls by Block and Donald Westlake. One Night Stands is a collection of short stories Block wrote between 1958 and 1962. While most of these stories are inferior to his great novels to follow, especially those of his his various series. My personal favorite are his series about Matthew Scudder, a detective, and Bernie Rhodenbarr, a burglar; One series is very serious and the other funny, reminding me of some good Donald Westlake comic capers. I have read all of those books and recommend them. Anyway, Block's inferior books are still better than most thrillers.  

Part of what I like about this book is Block writes, in the introduction, about how he came to
start writing and selling stories for publications, what he learned through trialand error.  

The stories are good, just not as good as his more recent work. You can see glimpses of the writer he was to become. As with some of his other early work there was often sex in his stories so some would be considered, if they were published today, as soft-core pornography. Most of the stories also contain if not violence then implied or threatened violence.  

The first two-thirds of the 366-page book consists of super short stories, some only
two or three pages and others up to 10 pages. The final third of the book are three stories about a character named Ed London and each of these stories is closer to 55 pages.  

Hellcats and Honeygirls collects three books that Block and Westlake wrote together. In the introduction Block explains the history and the mechanics. In 1957 Block answered a blind ad and got a job working for Scott Meredith Literacy Agency and began writing short stories, like the type mentioned above, and selling them to magazines.  

Around the same time Westlake answered the same ad, got the same job and start selling stories as well. In factboth of them sometimes sold stories to the same guy and they met and that began a 50-year friendship.  

This is how Block explains how their collaboration began: "I wrote the first chapter of A Girl Called Honey. I sent a carbon copy to Don, and he wrote Chapter Two and sent it tome, and we continued in this vein until the book was done. We never discussed the plot or the characters. At one point I tired of a character he'd introduced,and killed him off, whereupon he retaliated by getting my character arrested for murder. "Damn, that was fun."  

The stories are indeed fun, but a bit raunchy. Heck, all three stories have hookers as main characters. There are lots of excellent plot twists.

One of Block's earlier characters was Evan Tanner, a veteran who fought in the Korean War and who lost the need for sleep after a brain injury. This means he often spends his evening reading, learning, for example, how to speak in multiple language. It helps that he is a speed reader. Block wrote seven books about Tanner from 1966-1970. The eighth, the one I just read, Tanner On Ice, was published in 1986 after a 28 year gap.  

The novel starts with a great premise: Tanner goes to meet a client, who for some reason slips him a roofie in his drink and he passes out. It's 1972, only when Tanner wakes it's 1997. So just as there was a lengthy gap between books so has he slept for a long while due to him having apparently been been cryonically frozen, having been recently found in a frozen-food locker in the sub-basement of a house. This explains how Tanner doesn't look any older than when he had that aborted meeting in 1972. An irony is pointed out to Tanner: That though he is famously unable to sleep, he just spent 25 years, essentially, sleeping. He is not amused.  

After a conversation with the people who found him, he surprises them by announcing he was going home. Things are about to get crazier as he finds his apartment is still there as is Minna, who he saved from a kidnapping and had been living with him. She was 11 when Tanner went to his meeting and was now 35, while Tanner should have been 64, but due to cryonics stopping the aging proces, he was more like 39. As she says, "That is going to be very
difficult to get used to." While he "slept" Minna, who had looked up to him as a father figure, has gotten married and divorced, went to college and  received a doctorate. They have fun with illustrating how much has changed - he does not understand, for example, what Apple is, let alone a Macintosh, as the last time he saw a computer they worked on punch cards.  

Tanner gets sent on assignment to Burma to kill Aung San Suu Kyi, a famous 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner, but he refuses and things go sideways and he gets accused of drug trafficking and thrown in jail.  

This is another excellent thriller with lots of good twists. I always enjoy spending time with Tanner. I give it an 8.  

I decided to read one more Tanner book, Tanner's Tiger. Tanner's assignment requires him to go to the Cuba pavillion at the World' Fair, which is in Montreal, Canada, to investigate what the Cubans are doing there. Just one problem? Canada won't let him in. Tanner has many unusual political affiliations and one of those - the separation movement of Quebec - has made him an enemy of the Canadian government.  

A the book starts Tanner and his young friend, Minna, are being refused entry into Canada. He later gets himself smuggled into Canada but the smuggler,  when caught, claimed he was forced by gunpoint to help Tanner. Tanner finally makes it to the Cuban pavilion but then Minna goes missing at the Expo and when Tanner pages her, the cops take notice so when he returns to his hotel, hoping to find her there, he instead finds cops ready to arrest him for illegal entry into their nation. He escapes, of course, and finds help with some separatists who are more interested in kidnapping Queen Elizabeth to get her support for their cause. Or maybe killing her. But Tanner continues with his job, focused on getting down to this Cuba business and retrieving Minna.  

Or as the book jacket puts it, with more dramatic language, "Tanner is well-travelled, a master of disguise and subterfuge, accustomed to navigating the the hidden geography of the world's most dangerous countries and territories. Borders and bureaucracies mean nothing to him. Passports and vias are but a trifle to a man who speaks countless languages, with contacts in subversive organizations that span the globe. Tanner's been smuggled out of Turkey, fled the Soviet Union in an experimental aircraft, and escaped from a bamboo prison in Thailand.  

Now he's been given his most difficult assignment, to infiltrate a country motivated to repel his every attempt to enter, a country which will imprison him, drive him underground and cause Tanner to call upon his wits and contacts as never before.  

"That country is Canada," the book jacket concludes. If I had read that before starting the book I would have been hooked. Instead I have gotten into the habit of reading the first 50 pages before I read the book jacket to avoid spoilers and was already invested in the story.  

It's an excellent thriller with great plot twists, which I always love. I also always enjoy the characters or Tanner and Minna, and their dialogue.  

The book was originally printed as a paperback in 1968. The hardback book I was reading was published  in 2001 and included an afterword by Block. In the afterword Block makes an interesting admission: He wanted to be more like Tanner, particularly his ability to get by without sleep. To think of all he could do with all that extra time. Block wrote he also jealous that Tanner can speak so many languages and travel the world so easily."Suffice it to say that my life and Tanner's were vastly different, and I'd have traded with him in a hot second."  

Before he wrote the book his then-editor said they wanted to call it Tanner's Tiger and when Block asked why it was because 1) They wanted a character described as "wearing a full-length tigerskin coat" and 2) They could then show her on the cover wearing that coat. Block did his part and included that description in the book. He adds, "And, of course, you won't find the coat on the cover of the paperback. Instead she's wearing a skimpy two-piece tigerskin bathing suit. Go figure." On the hardback edition she's not in a coat nor a bathing figure. Go figure indeed!  

I give the book, which has a very satisfying and entertaining ending, an 8.  



#71- Against the Law and The Wild Life by David Gordon. Against the Law is the third book in the Joe Brody series. Joe is a bouncer with PTSD, some drug addiction issues, he lives with his grandmother in Queens and he sometimes, ok, often, breaks the law. The latter often
happens because one of his childhood friends is now a mafia boss and so Joe also moonlights as a fixer for the most powerful crime families in New York City. So, a bit of a complicated life, but never boring.  

I have praised this author and this series often, as I love the plotting, the heists and car chases and shout-outs, and  the characters. Plus it's a lot of run to read. Some of my other favorite crime writers agree. Robert Crais writes, "David Gordon brings an outstanding new voice to the contemporary crime novel." CrimeReads describes him as having found a niche in between Donald Westlake and Elmore Leonard, two other authors I love. It makes sense to reference those two authors as the book jacket describes this as a "comic caper" and they both wrote  plenty of them.  

"This one has everything, from a car chase that makes what Steve McQueen does with that Mustang in Bullitt seem like a Sunday drive, to a
showdown in a Russian bathhouse that is part Marx Brothers and part Kill Bill. For anyone with a taste for blood-splattered comic capers
featuring characters who vault off the pages, Against the Law is an exquisite fever dream in Technicolor," Booklist writes.  

In Against the Law Joe's new assignment is to kill Zahir, who is the faceless name behind White Angel, a powerful new brand of heroin invading the mob's territories and threatening their sales. When Joe learns of a connection between Zahir and a shady group of private military contractors things become even more deadly.  

This leads to an all-out drug war in the Five Buroughs, with Joe and the mob's other killers against a group of ruthless killers. Joe has a new plan: To use his thieving skills to intercept the newest shipment of the product.  

The book opens with this great start, one unexpected for someone with as wild a life as Joe. It starts, "Joe was in hell. Or close enough. The suburbs of hell. And he was stuck there with a kid who was bugging the shit out of him.
"I'm hungry," Hamid says, sprawled face down in the dust, in the middle of nowhere, staring at nothing.
Gradually, the reader realizes that this is happening not in some house somewhere but in Afghanistan where Joe was waiting for a heroin deal to go down because then Zahir would try to steal the product  and, the book says, "Joe was there to kill him. That was what brought him back to this place he never  wanted to see again. That and a half million dollars." The kid, from Brooklyn, was there as a paid translator. Also there, helping Joe again, is Yelena, his bad-ass Russian friend.  

As is custom now in this series the book has a great cast of characters, one of my favorite being Donna, an FBI agent with a crush on Joe. They keep having repeated almost run-ins, as well as a few actual encounters. The idea of a cop and a criminal having feelings for each other is not something I see often in crime novels. The book has a satisfying ending as most things are resolved. I give it an 8.  

The Wild Life is the fourth book in the series and the most recent. Someone has been kidnapping call girls from their brothels and they are never heard from again and one turns up dead. Joe, among his other jobs, is essentially the sheriff for the New York mafia and they own some of these brothels. Joe protests that he's not a detective but he agrees to investigate anyway. What he learns is not good.  

It appears that someone visiting these girls in the brothels is telling them that if they run off with him they will have a better, more independent, life. They go for it - how can they not? - before they realize too late they have been tricked. Joe identifies a suspect
and then the book becomes even more fast-paced as they zero on in him and his family and his crew have to run some cons and games to get to him.  

This is another excellent fast-paced thriller that, despite the dark subject matter, was enjoyable due to the scams and cons and witty dialogue between characters. I give this an 8.  

Warning: Both books have a lot of violence, as you might expect with a mafia fixer who is a bouncer dealing with some of the seediest fringes of New York City.

#72 - Murder By the Book: Mysteries For Bibliophiles and Collectibles, edited by Lawrence Block.
Murder By the Book is a collection of short mystery stories about characters or settings involving books, be it authors, libraries, bookstores, etc. In the
introduction it is mentioned that Otto Penzler, a mystery publisher, bookseller and bibliophile himself refers to these stories involving books as "bibliomysteries."

All of the stories are excellent. These are older stories, mostly from the early 20th century, so I became acquainted with authors new to me (Michael Innes, Christianna Brand and Victor Canning, to name a few) as well as some I know and have read including Ngaio Marsh, A.A. Milne and Philip McDonald. Since the material is dated so is some of the slang and language, especially told minorities.

The book is edited by Martin Edwards, who is the series consultant for the British Library Crime Classics. He has written crime novels and about crime writing. I give this book an 8.
I'm a big Lawrence Block fan so when I saw he edited a book's worth of short stories by mystery writes about collectibles I had to check it out. In one of Block's series the protagonist is a stamp collector so Block already has an interest - or his character does - in collecting things. This book has short stories by some great writers including Joe Lansdale, Dennis Lehane, Joyce Carol Oates, Otto Penzler and, of course, Block himself.

I particularly liked the stories by Lansdale, Lehane, Block and Alex Segura but the most interesting one, to me, was by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, an author I'm unfamiliar with. The story is about a runner everyone knows as Snot Rocket, the runners term for someone who will, as the narrator describes it, "press one nostril closed, and forcibly exhale whatever was in the other nostril." This was done to avoid stopping. Some runners do it but he did it so much he was famous for it, with runners in races, avoiding getting too close to him to avoid getting hit by his not. Then one day the protagonist, a runner and journalist, learns that Snot Rocket's real name is Dave and killed. She investigates, as do the police, and it's a clever, albeit gross, story.

Unlike Murder By the Book these are all stories by current, living authors. I enjoyed this collection and I give this book an 8.

#73 - Locust Lane by Stephen Amidon. I was unfamiliar with this author but I saw this stand-alone novel in the new arrivals section of the library and was intrigued by the plot and decided to check it out. He has written seven novels, with two of them adapted into films: Human Capital and Security.
A.J. Finn, author of the Woman In The Window, writes of this book: "A cool-headed,
red-blooded novel of such ice pick intelligence that you might find yourself wondering,
as I did, when you last read a thriller this sophisticated. Like Lehane and Landy -
like Harlan Coben, too, and Laura Dave in The Last Thing He Told Me - he detonates
surprises with perfect timing." I agree with all of that.
As the novel begins a woman is visited by cops who tell her that her daughter, Eden Perry, has died. The cops are trying to determine who killed her. The author alternates perspectives as we first hear from the different parents whose three teenage kids are the main suspects
as they were partying with her the night she died.
The suspects are Hannah, a sweet girl with an unstable history, Jack, who is popular but has a mean streak, and Christopher, who is an outsider trying to fit in. While the police obviously are trying to identify and arrest the killer, the parents complicate things as they go to great lengths to protect their kids, even at the expense of the other parents. As the book starts the mother of Jack is great friends with the stepmother of Hannah, and their kids are sleeping together. And Hannah's mother is having an affair with Christopher's dad. But most of those relationships all change during the course of this thrilling novel by an amazing writer.
I love plot twists and this one has a great surprise ending. I give this an 8.

#74 - Crime Scene and A Measure of Darkness by Jonathan Kellerman. This is the start of a new series about Clay Edison, a deputy coroner who used to be a star athlete. Part of his job is helping determine if someone dead died due to natural causes or foul play.  

As the book gets going Clay is called to the death of a man named Walter Rennert, who was found at the bottom of  the stairs. While all evidence seems to suggest it was an natural death his daughter, Tatiana, insists that he was murdered, pushed down the stairs, and convinced Clay to look further into it. She points out that one of Rennert's colleagues also died the same way.  

While investigating he goes way out of his purview as a deputy coroner and gets into Walter's phone and looks up his contacts. He learns that the day Walter died he began calling the same number 18 times, first every 15 minutes, then every five minutes, and it appears the person he was calling never picked up. He figures out that person is at a nearby hotel and he goes to
learn more.  

You know how sometimes there's a twist so good you learn forward, like you do in a movie theatre during an exciting scene. When I read that the person Walter was trying to meet, and that Clay was about to go confront, was good ol' Alex Deleware, I leaned forward, as this novel just became much more interesting. Alex is, of course, a character in Kellerman's very popular series about the forensic psychologist who works with the police. Plus, I always like it when characters from one series shows up in another. I rubbed my hands together, muttering, "This is going to be good!" However, it turns out to just be one of two cameos from Alex. Darn.  

Meanwhile, Clay is breaking some ethical rules by starting a sexual relationship with the daughter. I'm pretty sure that's inappropriate though I have never worked as a deputy coroner.  

Clay's colleagues get concerned when he starts looking into cases years-old involving people Walter knew earlier in life while others want him to simply finish up the case. But that's not how novels work, he tells them. No, he just explains he wants to be thorough.  

With a new character leading a series you never know how it will go: will he be interesting? Will readers want to spend more time with him? I'd answer yes to both questions. The book also resolved some matters in the end, which is satisfying when it's not too pat. I give this an 8.  

The second book opens at a party, where things go sideways. One or more shooters kill multiple people. Clay and others from his team are sent to the scene and then have the hard job of identifying those dead and doing family notifications. This is complicated in one case by someone who is transgender and has no contact with the family, making it difficult to do family notification. There is also a Jane Doe, someone who was brutalized and abandoned and had no ID. Clay tries to figure out who she is.  

In the first book Clay's brother, Luke, is in prison and their mom is mad that Clay does not visit him. In the second book Luke is out and announce their engagement at the same family dinner where Clay was going to announce his engagement to his girlfriend, Amy.  

The novel has interesting characters and is well plotted. I give it an 8.

#75 - The Thicket, Blood and Lemonade, Hyenas and Dead Aim, all by Joe Lansdale. The Thicket is a stand alone novel, which I thought I would try since I really like Lansdale's Hap and Leonard series.  

I love a good opening paragraph. This is the one from the book: "I didn't expect the day Grandfather came out and got me and my sister, Lula, and hauled us off toward the ferry that I'd soon end up with worse things happening than had already come upon us or that I'd take up with a gun-shooting dwarf, the son of a slave, and a big angry hog, let alone find true love and kill someone, but that's exactly how it was."  

As the novel begins Jack Parker has seen his share of tragedy, from his grandmother killed in a farm accident when he was five and now his parents have died in the smallpox epidemic destroying turn-of-the-century East Texas, leaving he and his younger sister, Lula, as orphans.  

Then things get worse for Jack, as a group of bank-robbing bandits kills his grandfather and  kidnap his sister. He needs help and he gets some from a bounty-hunting dwarf, a grave digging son of an ex-slave, a street smart woman for hire and, later, one or two other colorful characters.  

The New York Times Book Review describes the novel "a rip-roaring adventure equal parts True Grit and Stand by Me."  

"The Thicket presents Joe Lansdale at his finest - which is to say, at the high-water mark of all storytelling. Nuanced, compelling, darkly humorous, and remarkably vivid, the Thicket quickly becomes a one-sitting novel, told in a voice that would have called Huck Finn himself in from the river. Lansdale marries story and style in a way most writers never achieve," writes author Michael Koryta. John Connolly, whose books I have been loving lately, writes simply: "Lansdale's name deserves to be whispered with the greats."  

I quite liked this. While missing some of the witty dialogue between Hap and Leonard and, as with those books, a lot of violence, the writing style and the plotting are amazing. I give this an 8.5.  

I then decided to read one of the Hap and Leonard books, which can be as intense and violent as The Thicket but have more fun and wit in them. In Blood and Lemonade, the 11th book in the series, we learn about how Hap Collins and Leonard Pine first meet, namely in a fight with some racist white high school boys. Hap was a liberal teenage, handing out two-fisted justice, while  Leonard was black, gay, and fighting his own battles.  

The Hap and Leonard series is always funny, witty, violent with lots of good plot twists and excellent dialogue. This novel is no exception. It most consists of stories of their early years together and some observations from Hap and Leonard on how things have changed, especially in terms of outright racism and hostility toward black folks like Leonard.  

It was good but I prefer stories about their current exploits so I give it a 7.  

Next I picked up a novella called Hyenas, which is number 8.5 in the series. The story contains the usual profane humor between Hap and Leonard. The story starts with him arriving at a bar where three people were injured. Apparently one of them insulted Leonard and so he hurt them. One of the guys, Kelly, wanted to hire Hap and Leonard to do some tough work. Kelly had gone to the bar to look for some tough guys and after seeing Leonard in action decyided Leonard was the toughest guy around.  

Kelly was worried about his younger brother, Donnie, who had fallen in with a bad crowd, including one guy, Smoke Stack, who was involved in an armed robbery and was planning another. Kelly was concerned Smoke Stack would convince Donnie to be the get away driver. Donnie wants Hap and Leonard to get away from that crowd and he will pay $10,000 for their work. The guys think about it and later decide they will do the work.  

They learn that the last getaway driver was killed and that may happen to Donnie too. Do they succeed in getting Donnie away from them? You will have to read it to find it. This is an excellent story. I give it an 8.  

I next read a novella about the dynamic, violent duo, which is called Dead Aim, the 11th book in the series. This one takes a familiar concept - a woman wants her violent soon-to-be-ex-husband to leave her alone so she hires detectives to help that happen. But, as with many Hap and Leonard stories, there's a twist.  

The twist is this: The man may have noticed, or heard, that one of them is staying with his wife and the other was tailing him. Either way, Hap is watching the man when he hears a gunshot so he goes inside and finds the man dead. That's twist #1. Twist #2 comes when Hap is accused of being the killer.  

How will they get out of this jam? You just know they will - they have to continue in a series and it does no good if one of them is in the slammer -
but how? It's a great premise and it's well executed. Another good story that I give an 8.
Book #76  - The Investigator and Dark Angel by John Sandford. The Investigator, an excellent thriller, is the start of a new series focusing on Letty Davenport, the adopted daughter of Lucas Davenport, who is the start of a long-running, popular series of its own. Dark Angel is the explosive second book in the series.

I quite like this new series and plan to read future additions to it.

Near the start of the first book Letty is offered a job, which she accepts: To do investigative work with the Department of Homeland Security. Some oil companies in Texas have reported thefts of crude oil and Letty and DHS investigator John Kaiser, her partner on the case, head to the state and investigate. While investigating they find one oil company employee and his wife brutally murdered.

It looks like the murders are related to the robberies but they can't yet prove it. It is also unclear where the oil robbers are doing with their money. Meanwhile, there are rumors that a militia might be involved.

This is a good thriller, introducing readers to Letty and John, who I can see myself spending more time with. There was one annoying plot twist that I saw coming about 100 pages early but other than that the novel has an excellent plot with some good twists.

I give this an 8.

I decided to read the next book in the series, The Dark Angel. In this one, Letty has been tasked with infiltrating a group of hackers that calls itself Ordinary People, which has set out to cause as much trouble as possible. The group seems to be looking into natural gas distribution system perhaps, the government officials fear, with the intention of doing a ransomware attack, threatening to shut down the system, which could lead to fatalities.
Letty gets the distinct impression the government has not told her all they know about the situation. I will say, and feel safe saying this as it is referenced in the book jacket itself, that in addition to the enemies they make in the hacker group they also have to deal with the problem that someone within their own group may have betrayed them, and put their lives in danger, perhaps proving Letty's instincts were correct. It is possible, she realizes,
that their actual mission may be different than the stated ones. This makes everything more intense, both for her and for the reader.

I suspect I am not alone in watching, well, reading, as protagonists go "under cover" and scheme and track bad characters into doing dumb things that get them into trouble. I am not going to go into details for fear I may be providing spoilers.

This is another excellent thriller. I give it an 8.