Monday, July 29, 2019


A Mike Hammer Mystery
By Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins
Titan Books
198 pgs

Whenever Max Allan Collins delivers another Mickey Spillane Mike Hammer book, our thought is how the hits just keep coming. That is what each of these has been to date, bonfide gems based on either unfinished manuscripts or detailed plot outlines written by Spillane before his death. Collins efforts in bringing each to publication has been truly astounding and we mystery fans are all the richer for them.

In this latest outing, the New York based Hammer is hired by a handsome state senator with aspirations to being President. Unfortunately his extra-marital affairs have made him the target of a blackmailer and he requires the private eye’s help in extracting himself from his own warranted dilemma. Hammer reluctantly takes the job, though not his typical kind of work. There is a hefty payday involved and he’s not about to shrug that off lightly. His assignment, learn the identity of the blackmailer and retrieve the tape recording of the senator and his lovely secretary doing the hanky panky after hours.

Within the first twenty-fours, Hammer, and his faithful Velda, find the extortionist and it begins to look like an open and shut case. At which point a former state governor and World War II war hero, enters the story and things take a decidedly ugly turn. It’s the world of politics and when several characters end up dead, Hammer learns that all that is dirty and corrupt doesn’t only apply to the criminal empires.

Where power is the prize, evil will often extend its foul claws.  “ Murder, My Love,” is another fast reading mystery with enough action to keep any Spillane enthusiast thrilled from beginning to end. Amen.

Friday, July 26, 2019


A Baker & Llewelyn Novel
By Will Thomas
Monitaur Books
290 pgs.

“Fatal Inquiry” is the sixth in Will Thomas’ series about Cyrus Barker, London Agent of Inquiry and his assistant clerk, Thomas Llewelyn. Set in the same period as the Conan Doyle stories, these adventures offer Holmes fan a differet perspective on the great city and its social eccentricies. Each new story has been built upon the previous creating a marvelous cast of fun, wonderful defined supporting characters.

In this new entry, Barker comes under the attack of his arch enemy, Sebastian Nightwine, a former military officer whose path he has crossed on several occasions; much to his regret. Now Nightwine has returned to England to convince the Foreign Office to assist him in his madcap scheme to invade and rule Tibet. Such a coup would greatly enhance the Empire’s prestiage and power in that region of the world.

The villain is well aware Barker will be an impidement to his grandious plan. Thus he frames the detective for murder and puts a price on his head. Within twenty-four hours, Barker and Lleweln’s lives are shattered and the two find themselves fugitives on the run. When Lleweln is soon caught and released, he realizes Barker purposely tricked him so that he would be free of the bounty on his own head.  Now, for the first time since their meeting, Llewelyn must act solo. He must employ all the skills and cunning the crafty his employer has taught him and somehow save Baker in the end.

As if that wasn’t challenge enough, the lad then meets Nightwine’s beautiful daughter and suddenly the rules of the games are altered. Is she an ally or a foe, a pawn or a cold blooded killer like her father? 

“Fatal Inquiry” is a tense, fast paced historical thriller that never lets up and is by far the best book in the series thus far. Which is saying a great deal? Here is hoping volume number seven isn’t too far off.

Sunday, July 14, 2019


By S.W. Lauden
Down & Out Books
139 pgs

Tommy Ruzzo is an ex-New York cop kicked off the force for criminal behavior. He follows his girlfriend, Shayna, back to her hometown of Seatown Florida. Shortly thereafter she dumps him and takes a powder. Ruzzo accepts a job as the Head of Security manager at a beachfront retirement facility known as Precious Acres. He spends most of his days between driving a golf cart around the grounds to getting drunk at a local watering hole named the Rusty Pelican.

One morning the custodian, Ruzzo’s drinking buddy, finds one of the residents dead on the bocce court with his throat cut. As many of the patrons are former New Yorkers, several with mob ties, Ruzzo suspects that maybe the past is catching up to them. Getting little help from the local Sheriff, he keeps poking about and then a second resident is killed. The old man is found with the local newspaper laid on his chest opened to where the cross-word puzzle is found. Another of the old snowbirds tells Ruzzo about a hitman who would post warnings in the cross-word puzzles as a way to unnerve his intended targets.

In the middle of this chaos, Shayna returns, this time with her husband in tow. He’s a small time drug dealer with a mean streak. Could he have anything to do with the murders? Does he know anything about Ruzzo’s relationship with previous Shayna? Within a week, the world-weary ex-cop is knee deep in bodies and beginning to think he may be next on the list of some deranged mob assassin.

S.W. Lauden’s writing is lean delivering only what the story requires to keep it moving along. There are no long passages of exposition or insightful reflection. His characters, especially Tommy Ruzzo, are all flawed and doing simply doing their best to get from day to day. When murder enters the stage, masks come off and a killer takes the spotlight.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019


By John Scalzi
Tor Books
394 pgs

Every time we read a John Scalzi sci-fi book, we’re amazed at how he delivers unique and original stories that somehow are reminiscent of past authors such as Robert Heinlein and Edmond Hamilton. Scalzi is comfortable detailing known science while extrapolating it, which is what all good science fiction does. At the same time, he throws in tons of old pulp space opera action. That both work in perfect harmony with each other is what has made him such a popular writer today.

With “The Android’s Dream,” he blazes a story about alien conspiracies, biological manipulations and a sentient computer. Harry Creek is a war veteran working for the State Department and has the unenviable job of giving people bad news. Need to fire someone, call Harry. Need to tell a diplomat she’s being assigned to some far off world no one has ever heard of before, call Harry. What is fun is the fact that Harry has no problems with the role. He’s a pragmatist. After all, somebody’s got to it.

When a respected member of an alien Nidu delegation is assassinated via chemically produced smells during a trade negotiation, the Department’s Administrators scramble to salvage the situation and avoid an all out war. This can be done by providing the aliens with a special breed of sheep known as the Android’s Dream. Apparently such animals were gifts to the Nidu generations earlier upon first contact. Now the ruling clan of must sacrifice such a sheep whenever a new ruler is crowned. Sounds simple enough until it is discovered somebody has systematically destroyed all the known Android’s Dream sheep on the earth. Thus Harry Creek’s assignment is to find just one sheep and then keep it alive.

To accomplish this, Harry creates a self-aware computer program based on the mind of a deceased friend name Brian. Once awakened Brian begins searching the World Wide Web and managed to find the only remaining Android’s Dream still breathing. But it’s not a sheep; it’s a young woman whose genetic code actually contains sheep genes.

And that all happens within the first half of the book. Soon Harry and the lady, one Robin Baker, are on the run being chased by both human and alien killers. The action is non-stop; the characters brilliantly conceived and climax a slam-bang finale that had us cheering aloud. All science-fiction should be as good as “The Android’s Dream.” We can’t wait to see what Scalzi cooks up next.

Monday, July 01, 2019


By Max Allan Collins
Hard Case Crime
206 pages
Pub Date – 12 Nov – 2019

When reading a Max Collins Quarry novel, readers have come to expect certain elements to grace the pages of each new title.  Primary among these are witty, often sharply sarcastic bantering between the veteran hitman and the people he encounters. Then there are the sexy femme fatales that come in all colors, ages and alluring shapes. Though Quarry would never call himself a “ladies man,” his ability to attract beautiful women certainly makes his male readers envious. Then you add in sudden, often violent action in which our protagonist has to fight tooth and nail to survive and your Quarry recipe is almost complete.  So what’s the final ingredient? The twisted, original plots that will keep you turning the pages in an attempt to unravel the mystery before he does.

Thus in this vein, “Killing Quarry” is as yet another winner fulfilling all of these expectations with a fast-pace plot that adds a terrific new perspective to the series. For the first time in his death-dealing career, Quarry has never been the intended target. He is this time and when that revelation becomes apparent, it turns his entire world upside down. No longer the hunter, Quarry doesn’t fancy the role of prey. Someone has painted a target on his back and if he makes one false move, it could be his last.

If that were not enough to occupy his attention, in the middle of the entire affair he is reunited with an old lover from his early days in the killing game. Lu, short for Lucille, also happens be in his line of work.  Though she has a logical explanation for why she has come back now, Quarry is ever skeptical. He is alive because of his trust issues. Is she there to assist him in learning who has put out on a contract on him or is she pursuing her own selfish agenda? And why, after almost a decade of operating in relative obscurity, has his identity finally been exposed?

“Killing Quarry” is a twisty thriller that skillfully moves from one scene to next with such consummate ease, most readers will reach the end sooner than desired. Then again, that’s another part of any Quarry book, we never want them to end.