Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Crime and Suspense Classics - The Must-Read List

Here's a list of classic novels that are essential reads in the Crime and Suspense genres. The list is roughly chronological, ranging from the 1930s to the current time. Note that the list does not include traditional Mystery novels, which is a separate genre.

The Maltese Falcon - Dashiell Hammett. Where the terse, hardboiled style all began.

The Big Sleep - Raymond Chandler

Double Indemnity - James M. Cain. The classic Noir doomed crime plan.

The Getaway - Jim Thompson. The crime novel as a descent into Hell.

The Manchurian Candidate - Richard Condon. The paranoid conspiracy thriller and a monstrous maternal figure.

Psycho - Robert Bloch.

The Deep Blue Goodbye - John D. MacDonald

The Friends of Eddie Coyle - George V. Higgins. Gritty crime story told in pitch perfect street dialogue. Elmore Leonard learned from this author.

Death Wish - Brian Garfield. Unban crime problems and the novel of revenge.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - John LeCarre. The perfect Cold War spy novel.

The Ipcress File - Len Deighton. The spy novel retold with working class cynicism.

Marathon Man - William Goldman. That shudder-grating torture scene in a dental chair.

Miami Blues - Charles Willeford. An under-appreciated gem of a crime author.

Killshot - Elmore Leonard.

The Black Dahlia - James Ellroy. Frantic, pitch black, and borderline insane, as only Ellroy can write.

Silence of the Lambs - Thomas Harris. The best serial killer novel ever written.

Heaven's Prisoners - James Lee Burke

Mystic River - Dennis Lehane.

No Country For Old Men - Cormac McCarthy. Noir fatalism in the new West.

City of Bones -  Michael Connelly. The police procedural at its best.

The Leopard - Jo Nesbo. Obsession, Nordic style.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

NIGHT MANAGER a Sleek Spy Drama

The Night Manager is a taut, sleekly produced mini-series airing on AMC Cable network. The series is based on a novel by John Le Carre.

With the end of the Cold War battle between the CIA, MI-6, and the Soviet KGB, spy novelists like Le Carre had to find new plot subjects such as terrorism, multi-national corporations, and international crime. The Night Manager deals with an undercover operation by a British intelligence agency to bring down a notorious arms smuggler. In the process, corruption and betrayal are uncovered at high levels within both MI-6 and the CIA.

Other Le Carre novels have pursued similar post-Cold War intrigue:

Our Kind of Traitor - A British couple on vacation become involved with a Russian crime oligarch who wishes to defect, which draws the involvement of British intelligence. The movie version of the novel will be released this August.

A Most Wanted Man - A grim, cynical drama set in Hamburg, Germany. A wanted Muslim terrorist pretending to be an ordinary immigrant is hunted by competing American, British, and German agencies. Unfortunately, Le Carre's ingrained anti-American streak is on its nastiest display here. The movie version is available on DVD.

Monday, May 2, 2016

EXTREME PREY a New Crime Thriller by John Sandford

Extreme Prey by John Sandford is the newest entry in the crime thriller series that features Minnesota State Police investigator Lucas Davenport.

The Iowa Presidential campaign trail is the background for the novel. A threat has been made against a candidate. Lucas is on indefinite leave from police work, but he agrees to look into the threat as a free lance consultant.

What Lucas finds increasingly worries him. Evidence develops that indicates the threat is not only real, but clearly dangerous. But the threat comes from an unlikely source: a bitter and resentful farm family following near-psychotic political motives. The race to stop an assassination plan crisscrosses the rustic Iowa landscape, hurtling toward a tense, explosive finish.

Extreme Prey has a crackerjack plot and is written in such a smooth, fast paced style that the novel practically reads itself. Once again, John Sandford shows why he is one of the best crime thriller authors working today.

An outstanding read. Highly recommended.

Friday, April 1, 2016

OFF THE GRID a Western Crime Thriller

Off the Grid by C.J. Box is the latest novel in the series that features Wyoming Game Warden Joe Pickett. The Pickett novels are noted for fast moving plots, with raw boned action, set against a rugged western landscape. This newest entry doesn't disappoint.

The storyline shifts between Joe Pickett and his friend Nate Romanowski, a former special forces soldier and now a renegade outlaw wanted by the Feds. Nate has been hiding out in the wilderness off the grid. But the Feds finally locate him and recruit him for a job. In return, Nate's record will be fully cleared.

The Feds want Nate to infiltrate a suspected terrorist cell training in the remote, desolate Red desert region of Wyoming. Meanwhile, the state governor sends Joe Pickett into the same area to find out what the Feds are up to on state lands.

Joe and Nate are working separate missions, but they both run up against the same ruthless enemies in the middle of a barren nowhereWhen it becomes clear what kind of disaster the terrorists plan to cause, the book's title takes on a whole new meaning. 

Off the Grid is a riveting read that again shows why C.J. Box is one of the most popular authors in the crime thriller genre.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

MIDNIGHT SUN by Jo Nesbo a Fateful Crime Tale

Midnight Sun is a new short novel from Norwegian crime author Jo Nesbo, who is widely acclaimed for his popular series featuring Oslo homicide detective Harry Hole.

The main character of Midnight Sun is a former crime gang member who calls himself Ulf. He was supposed to kill someone for his boss, the Fisherman, but instead Ulf took money to let his intended victim go free. Now Ulf himself is on the run from the Fisherman's hit men. Hiding out in an isolated village in the far north of Norway near the Arctic Circle, Ulf hopes they won't find him there. But in his heart, he knows they will be coming sooner or later.

Ulf is a practical man with no illusions about the dead end situation he is in, a pitiless prospect as bleak as the barren landscape around him and the relentless, hanging sun that never sets. A fatalistic undertone of the consequences of one's decisions runs throughout the story.

Midnight Sun is a grim crime tale that moves implacably toward an unexpected finish. It's another solid read from Jo Nesbo.

Monday, February 8, 2016

A New Murder Mystery For Inspector Rebus

Even Dogs in the Wild by Ian Rankin is the latest novel in the series that features Inspector John Rebus of the Edinburgh, Scotland police.

Now retired, the irascible Rebus is brought in as civilian consultant on a new murder investigation. A former high court prosecutor is found beaten to death in his home. Rebus is teamed with his old partner, Siobhan Clarke, and an old nemesis, Malcolm Fox, once an Internal Affairs cop who tried to nail John Rebus.

At the same time, someone has taken a shot at a notorious local mobster, Gerald Cafferty, a long time acquaintance of Rebus. The shooting may be the prelude to a looming war for control among the city's mobsters. As Rebus is drawn into that situation as well, a startling link emerges between the prosecutor's murder and the attempt against the mobster Cafferty.

What could be the connection between the two cases? That's the puzzle that Rebus and his colleagues must solve, even as a third victim suddenly turns up.

Even Dogs in the Wild  is another entertaining entry in this popular series that Inspector Rebus fans should thoroughly enjoy.

Friday, January 22, 2016

TWIN PEAKS Series Return Will Be Epic Event

It was surprising when the news came that the Nineties cult classic TV series Twin Peaks would return in a new limited series production after twenty-five years. As of now, 18 new episodes will be made, to debut in early 2017 on Showtime network.

The original Twin Peaks appeared in 1990-91 and ran for 30 episodes. Created by iconic film director David Lynch and screenwriter Mark Frost, the setting was a quirky logging town deep within the looming Pacific Northwest woods.

The plot centered around the murder of high school homecoming queen Laura Palmer. But the investigation became a postmodern metaphysical mystery that involved surrealistic dream sequences, the synchronistic connection of events, and the presence of transcendent evil. Nothing like it had ever been done on TV before.

The series had a visionary quality due in great part to the outrĂ© creative genius of David Lynch. In the original series, Lynch directed only six episodes and co-wrote only four. This time, the new production will be more completely his personal vision. Lynch will co-write and direct all of the new episodes.

The new storyline is shrouded in secrecy. Whether it will continue where the first series left off, we don't know. What we do know is that the actors who portrayed FBI Agent Dale Cooper and Audrey Horne will return to reprise their roles. A new cast addition will be Laura Dern. Sadly, the actress who played the Oracle-like Log lady has since died, which is a key loss.

When the new Twin Peaks does appear next year, it's certain to be a major media event. If the new production can recapture the same sinister, dreamy mind-twisting atmosphere of the of the original version, it will become an addictive, must-see experience.