Sunday, September 11, 2022




By Max Allan Collins

Hard Case Crimes

Arriving Dec 6th 2022

295 pgs


This is the 20th in the Nate Heller historical crime series by Collins. If you are unfamiliar with them, the conceit is simple enough. Collins, either working alone, or with other collaborators, researches an actual American crime and then drops his fictional private eye into the tale as either an investigator or actual participant in the events.  In this case, he becomes both. The story revolves around the 1953 kidnapping of young Bobby Greenlease of Kansas City. The six year old was the son of Robert Cosgrove Greenlease Sr, a multi-millionaire auto dealer. His kidnappers were paid a ransom of $60,000, the largest ever paid out in American history at that time.

Collins splits the book in two parts. The first has Heller hired by Greenlease Sr. to help find the kidnappers and rescue his son. We’ve always admired Collin’s ability to empathize with his characters and that is never more evidenced than here. Believing the boy is already dead, after finding Hall, Heller’s emotional restraint is nothing short of painful as his desire to blow away the scumbag killer is kept in check with having to learn the truth. His portrayal of Carl Hall is both deft and creepy at the same time.  

At the time of the couples’ eventual arrest, only half the money was recovered.  Five years later the mystery remains as to where it went and who ended up with it. Reporters and police investigators suggested the funds had been laundered through organized crime and ended up in Jimmy Hoffa’s Teamsters Union Fund. Thus Greenlease Sr. once again hires Heller; this time to find out where it went. Not because he needs the money, but is sickened by the thought that unknown lowlifes profited from his son’s abduction. Like his previous Heller books, Collins skillfully weaves his protagonist through the documented historical facts having him cross paths with such players Hoffa and Bobby Kennedy.

“The Big Bundle” is classic Max Collins, that alone should have you pre-ordering it. Of all his Heller novels to date, this one will leave you feeling as if you’d been sucker punched. Since the Garden of Eden, evil has existed in our world. In 1953, it reared its head tragically.  

A final note. We rarely mention of the covers of books we review. Hard Case Crime is one of the few publishers out there that always delivers stunning paintings reminiscent of the early 50s paperbacks. Paul Mann does the honors on this title offering up a Nate Heller who looks a whole lot like the late actor Robert Lansing. What we’d call brilliant casting, Mr. Mann.


Monday, September 05, 2022




By Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

Grand Central Publishing

369 pgs


As most readers of this blog are aware, our favorite current thriller series is the adventures of Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast written by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. One of the hallmarks of great continuing series is the establishment of colorful supporting characters as the stories progress. With the Pendergast book that was clearly evident from the first title which, aside from our stalwart hero, introduced archeologist Nora Kelly. Kelly would go on to appear in several subsequent adventures and even appear in a book sans Pendergast. Later, Preston and Child had Pendergast meet a wild, rebellious into-goth teenage girl named Corrie Swanson. Soon she too reappeared and ultimately became his ward. Pendergast saw to her college education and then was delighted when she chose to join the FBI following in his footsteps.  

Now comes “Old Bones” and Preston and Child pulled the best hat trick of them all. They team up Kelly and Swanson in an intriguing tale of historical horror, murder and international conspiracy. You see, although both ladies had appeared in several Pendergast cases, none at the same time and thus when they cross paths in this story, it is a total strangers. And that, dear reader is the cause of much delight to this reviewer. 

An historian named Clive Benton seeks out Kelly to help him uncover a lost campsite from the infamous Donner Party; the pioneer wagon train that became trapped in the Sierra Nevada mountain range during a brutal winter and ultimately turned to cannibalism to stay alive. Benton claims to be a descendant of one of the survivors and explains how previous archeological digs had only ever uncovered and documented two Donner camps. It is his believe, backed a long-lost diary that a third camp existed and had never been located. It is way too much of a temptation to Kelly and he manages to convince her superiors at the Sante Fe Archeological Institute to fund a new expedition to be led by herself and Benton. 

Meanwhile, rookie FBI agent is investigating a murder centered around several incidents of grave robbing. Parts of deceased bodies, all belong to a family called Parkins have been stolen, include some from France. During her research, she learns the first Parkins was both a member and a victim of the Donner tragedy. When she discovers there is currently an archeological dig presently underway, it is too much of a coincidence and she convinces her boss to let her find Kelly’s team and question them. No sooner than she arrives at the site then one of the cowboy wranglers dies from a fall off a cliff. Was it an accident or was he shoved to his death?  

Preston and Child had to have been smiling from ear to ear as they penned the scenes when to of their most likeable creations come face to face for the very first time. And of course, that meeting is anything but cordial. Kelly is leery of the inexperienced Swanson and convinced her interference will ruin her dig site. While the ambitious agent sees the veteran scientist as a stodgy impediment to her first ever investigation. It’s water and oil and we readers are the recipients of these delicious encounters. “Old Bones” we are happy to announce is only the first of this new spin-off series, teaming these likeable characters. After readying this opening debut, we are certainly pick up the others. You should too.