Friday, October 05, 2018

CITY OF ENDLESS NIGHT


CITY OF ENDLESS NIGHT
A Pendergast Novel
Preston & Child
Grand Central Publishing
358 pgs

We absolutely love modern pulp thrillers and there is no better series on the market today than Preston and Child’s Special Agent Pendergast books.  Pendergast is a wealthy FBI agent who lives in New York but his cases often take him to exotic locales around the world. Whereas in “City of Endless Night,” the seventeenth in the series, the action takes place in the Big Apple itself.

A vicious serial killer is on the loose. One who, after killing his victims, decapitates them? Put in charge of the investigation is veteran detective, Lt. Vincent D’Agosta. Understanding the uniqueness of the killings, D’Agosta is only glad to accept Agent Pendergast’s assistant; the two are close friends having shared several cases in the past. The problem with this one is the disparaging lack of any connection between the suspects; one is a young woman, the next two adult males. All of them are from different social backgrounds.

When the FBI’s own Unsub Profiling Unit fails to deliver any kind of reliable data, D’Agosta and Pendergast begin to suspect the killer is a bonafide sociopath selecting his targets at random. Without a clear modus operandi, they are challenged with doing the impossible. Find a killer who can strike anytime, anywhere against anyone.

“City of Endless Night” is a clever mystery meticulously plotted and offers up an intriguing puzzle we found wonderfully original. It is a thriller that will keep readers guessing from chapter to chapter until the final confrontation between the inimitable Agent Pendergast and the most brilliant fiend he’s ever hunted. Not to be missed.

Friday, September 28, 2018

CAVE OF THE BLOOD DEMONS


CAVE OF THE BLOOD DEMONS
A Man of the Mist Adventure
By Darryle Purcell
Digital Parchment Press
160 pgs

This is the second in writer Darryle Purcell’s new pulp series, featuring his Man in the Mist and the second of his books to land on my review stack. The first was part of his older series, The Hollywood Cowboy Detectives of which there are currently fifteen. The Man in the Mist is actually Los Angeles manufacturing industrialist Ralph Thorn. Trained by mystics in the Far East, Thorn can cloud the minds of men and blind them to his very presence, thus becoming an invisible avenger meting out justice to those beyond the law.

As the adventure opens, it is 1938 and a poisoned drug is turning people into mindless killers. Helping the police investigate the source of the lethal drug, Thorn and his feisty secretary sidekick, Moxie Malone, discover the tainted heroin is actually being delivered hidden in small dragon statues imported by one of his own companies from Indochina.
Determined to discover the actual source, Thorn, Moxie and Police Detective Farmisht are soon on a cruise ship bound for the Orient. With them is the lovely Cecile Nguyen, whose father runs the rubber plantation that services Thorn Industries.

But danger is also along for the ride, as agents for the mysterious mastermind, known only as the Dutchman, launch several attacks on Thorn and his companions. The action never stops, as Purcell captures the speedy pace of the classic pulps while adding a healthy dose of comedic banter to ease the suspense along the way to his action packed finale.  “Cave of the Blood Demons” is one hundred percent pure pulp fun and shouldn’t be missed.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

KILL THE NIGHT


KILL THE NIGHT
Self-Published
By Terry Mark
PO Box 272572
Fort Collins, CO 80527
353 pg

Writing a first book is always a tricky challenge. All too often most would-be authors spend months, even years, on a project only to end up with pages of uninspired words.
It is all too rare when a new writer puts in lots of blood, sweat and tears to deliver something truly original and fun. The latter is the case with Terry Mark’s first effort, “Kill The Night.” This is an out and out pulp thriller that moves like a runaway freight train.

The story begins in Paris where inventor Nikolas Tesla has debut his newest wonder, a giant robot that can lift and move heavy transportation barges on the Seine River. When a later demonstration goes awry, a beautiful young lady is killed. Her lover, looking like American gunslinger, vows vengeance on Tesla.

The book then jumps ahead in time and space to New York where Tesla and American genius, Thomas Editor have become bitter foes over various patent litigations and broken contractual agreements. Enter a spunky female journalist named Ida Tarbell who sees the feud between these two famous men as the story of a lifetime. She follows the two men to the Chicago World Exhibition, where Tesla has agreed to light the famous “White City” with electricity.

When the Gunslinger appears, Tesla is forced to flee westward. As it turns out, the mysterious hunter as added Edison as a target and both men’s lives art in jeopardy. But who exactly is this man and what terrible dark secret does he hide. From Chicago onto Kansas City and then a wild race to the mountains of Colorado for a bang up finale.
Writer Mark Terry pulls out all the stops.

“Kill The Night,” is wonderfully set in a time when Americans saw science and progress as the twin paths to a brighter future. It was a time of wonder and awe. In this whirlwind era, three courageous people struggle not only to triumph, but to survive. This is a terrific. Sadly it is not currently available through normal distribution channels and interested readers should contact Mr. Mark directly at the address above. Tell him we sent you…with the highest recommendations.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

MURDER IN THE BALL PARK


MURDER IN THE BALL PARK
A Nero Wolfe Mystery
By Robert Goldsborough
A Mysterious Press Original
224 pgs

As we love both baseball and Nero Wolfe mysteries, this new entry by Robert Goldsborough was a much anticipated read. Happily it did not disappoint in any way offering up another intriguing murder and the all too familiar investigative routines originating from the brownstone at West 35th Street in New York. 

The story opens with Archie Goodwin and his pal, Saul Panzer, attending a Giants vs Dodgers game at the Polo Grounds. Upon arriving, they learn it is Flag Day at the ballpark and among the dignitaries on hand is State Senator Orson Milbank and his entourage. At the top of the 4th inning a homerun is hit into the second deck area over left field and as the crowd of thousands jump to their feet to cheer, the Senator keels over having been shot in the head by an assassin’s bullet. By the time Archie and Saul reach Milbank, he is dead. Several days later the Senator’s widow, a much younger former Hollywood actress, calls the Brownstone requesting to emply the famous Nero Wolfe to solve her husband’s murder and bring the killer to justice.

The late Rex Stout, Wolfe’s creator, was a genius in developing a mold by which the rotund detective’s tales would be laid out. Basically Wolfe never leaves his home. Rather he assigns Goodwin to do the leg work; which also includes interviewing the various suspects. Archie has a knack for remembering conversations verbatim and these he reports back to Wolfe. When all the pieces of a puzzle have been assembled in the tale, Wolfe deduces the solution and has all the suspects invited to his office where he then reveals the “how it was done” and the killer’s identity. It is a formula Robert Goldsborough has captured perfectly in these new Wolfe mysteries which is why we love them so much.

Much like the Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson stories that clearly inspired Stout, the mysteries themselves often prove secondary in importance to the actual fun of simply “being” with these wonderful characters. “Murder In The Ball Park” is no exception. If you are Wolfe and Goodwin fan as this reviewer is, you will relish every single scene in this dandy little caper where in the end, murder strikes out.

Monday, August 20, 2018

SWIFT VENGEANCE


SWIFT VENGEANCE
By T. Jefferson Parker
Putnam Books
353 pgs

Lindsay Rakes is a former drone operator for the U.S. Air Force.  In the end, her work of dropping missiles on enemy targets a world away becomes too much for her own conscience. The post guilt eventually ruins her marriage, losing both her husband and son through to the abuse of alcohol. Ultimately it is San Diego Private Investigator, Roland Ford, who comes to Rakes’ rescue, seeing the psychological scars she carries. He can identify as a Marine veteran who had served in Fallujah. He eventually gets Rakes in AA and on a path of sobriety.

As the book opens, Ford is still grieving for the loss of his wife in a single engine plane crash a year earlier. When Rakes shows up at his doorstep with a note threatening her life via beheading, he puts that melancholy aside. The note is written in a stylized Arabic calligraphy and the author signs himself Caliphornia openly identifying himself as a Muslim and alluding to her service activities. As it turns out, the other two men in her unit, also drone operators, had received the same thread on similar stationary. Ford takes Rakes note to FBI Agent Joan Taucher, a dedicated warrior obsessed with protecting her community from suffering terrorist attacks of any kind. She sees the threat as real and together, they begin their hunt for the elusive villain.

When one of the other two targeted veterans is murdered and beheaded, both Ford and Taucher find themselves in a race with a madman bent on a very singular vengeance. He has not chosen his targets at random, but because of their involvement with one specific mission. Now it’s up to the world weary P.I. to find that connection before the killer strikes again on an ever larger scale.

“Swift Vengeance,” like all good thrillers, works because of Parker’s ability to create believable characters, both good and bad. His insights into the human soul with its flaws and strengths is what propels the story. It allows us to know these people as if they were our own friends and neighbors. When the climax arrives, we’ve become invested and it carries us to a powerful finale cruel in its truth and inevitability. The last page of this amazing book is one this reviewer will never forget.  

Sunday, August 12, 2018

THE GANGSTER


THE GANGSTER
An Isaac Bell Adventure
By Justin Scott (& Clive Cussler)
Putnam Books
416 pgs

Of all the cottage spin-off series to come from Clive Cussler, my favorite remains the Isaac Bell stories, as writer Justin Scott knows his history and can write smooth, fast paced action better than most thriller writers today. “The Gangster” is no exception. It begins with an early encounter be Bell as a college student with an Italian immigrant, Anthony Braco, in a railyard. Later, that immigrant becomes the brilliant and cruel leader of New York’s Black Hand, the precursor of the dreaded Mafia.

Of course by this time, Bell is now a detective for the Van Dorn Agency and it is inevitable that the two will cross paths and become antagonist. All of this set up is wonderfully set forth and the tactics of blackmail and intimidation employed by are right out of crimeland textbooks. Where the novel takes a sharp turn is when Bell learns Braco has become involved with a plot to assassinate President Theodore Roosevelt. From that point on, we dare any reader to put this book down. It flies over the last two hundred pages like a bolt of storytelling lighting. 

We’ve enjoyed all the Isaac Bell books to date and “The Gangster” is by far one of the best. Can’t wait to see what Justin Scott has up his sleeve for the next one.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

CHILDREN OF THE LIGHT - Book One - The Silver Haired Boy


CHILDREN OF THE LIGHT
Book One : The Silver-Haired Boy
By Aaron Powers
Create Space Platform
Available at Amazon
216 pgs

As we’ve said often enough in this column, self-published books are really hit or miss. The ability to publish one’s own work, without having to rely on a professional publisher is both a good thing and a bad thing. Obviously it’s a good thing for that talented writer who, for whatever obstacles, simply can’t get his or her work looked at by those big shot companies. It is certainly a bad thing when people without an ounce of writing skills think they are the next Stephen King and put their amateurish (we’re being kind here) ramblings out for the whole world to suffer through.

So here we have another self-published entry. Whereas we are delighted to say it falls totally in the former camp. Aaron Powers can write. And that is an understatement. He not only understands the technical skilled required to write, he’s also got the instincts of a true storyteller. From page one to the dramatic finale, “Children of the Light” is a roller-coaster ride that is so well conceived and delivered, we were amazed that this is his first novel.

Ticho is young boy living in Gainsborough. He is an orphan who doesn’t know his own history. He is mute and lots of very bad people are chasing him because he stole a museum statue. The statue he stole is of a shepherd holding recovered lost lamb. What its value is, Ticho doesn’t know but in the opening chapter his adoptive father is murdered by the very people wanting its return. During the chase, he encounters a very wise old man named Armin Kayetan who brings him to a magical cottage hidden on the outskirts of the city.

Here Armin, and a few of his trusted allies, inform Ticho that for centuries a secret war has been waged on Earth between the powers of good and evil; dark and light. Ticho is a direct descendant of the first Children of the Light and has inherited their amazing powers. It is Armin’s task to train the boy and teach him how to use these gifts as the demonic forces are closing in on them every day. The statue is one of six the minions of the Dark require to rule the world and usher in an age of true horror.

“Children of the Light – Book One – The Silver-Haired Boy” is one of the most enjoyable books we’ve read all year and one that is extremely hard to put down once you start reading. This is what solid, action adventure fantasy is all about. Aaron Powers…remember that name.  You will be hearing it a whole lot more in the future. Count on it.