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.

Monday, January 4, 2016

GIRL IN THE SPIDER'S WEB a Worthy Effort

The Girl in the Spider's Web is a continuation of the best selling trilogy that began with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Swedish author Stieg Larsson. Sadly, Larsson died shortly after writing the last novel in the trilogy.

New author David Lagercrantz has now continued the original series with this latest novel. Set again in Stockholm, the novel brings back the striking character duo of investigative reporter Mikael Blomkvist and tough hacker punk Lisbeth Salander.

The plot is a complex web involving cyber-espionage and the theft of valuable industrial secrets. The U.S. spy agency NSA may be involved, along with a team of ruthless killers, and an autistic savant boy who possesses key information.

The novel offers much of the same technical depth and sweeping storyline of the original Larsson books. The character of Mikael Blomkvist is a solidly familiar presence that anchors the story. Where new author Lagercrantz has trouble is in catching the enigmatic character of Lisbeth Salander.  She comes across coldly and remotely, never showing the same fiery, volatile intensity of the Larsson portrayal.

That said, The Girl in the Spider's Web is a worthy effort and an enjoyable read, if only a somewhat diminished echo of the vividly original Stieg Larsson works.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Best Mystery and Crime Novels of 2015

This year was another strong year for new books in the Mystery and Crime genre. These are the best novels, including two by one author, reviewed by this blog in 2015:

The Crossing by Michael Connelly - Former LAPD detective Harry Bosch returns in a new police procedural novel in this popular continuing series. Bosch is now retired and ends up reluctantly crossing over to the other side to help defend an accused criminal defendant. But as Bosch starts digging, too many things don't fit and it looks like someone inside the LAPD is behind it. A riveting, outstanding read.

Endangered by C.J. Box - New entry in the series that features Wyoming state game warden Joe Pickett. Joe's step-daughter, April, is found beaten and unconscious, and his friend, Nate is gunned down in a cold blooded ambush. As Joe investigates these attacks, he comes up against a roughneck, violent backwoods clan. A fast paced read set against a rugged western landscape.

Badlands by C.J. Box - Introduces main character Cassie Dewell, a Sheriff's Department investigator in her new job in a rowdy shale oil boomtown in North Dakota. Cassie soon finds herself dealing with violent drug gang murders and corruption in her own department. Set on the frigid plains, with a realistic and appealing character, it's a nice start for a new continuing series featuring Cassie Dewell.

Blood on Snow by Jo Nesbo - A short, stand alone novel by the popular Norwegian crime author. Main character Oleg is a "fixer," a contract killer for his boss. But when Oleg is ordered to kill the wife of his boss, it creates an impossible dilemma, because Oleg himself is in love with her. A philosophical, gripping crime tale that races to a harsh finish.

Gathering Prey by John Sandford - Latest in the crime thriller series that features Minnesota State Police investigator Lucas Davenport. Lucas gets onto the trail of a roving, rag-tag band led by a sociopathic guru name Pilate. These drifters move around the country, luring and killing random victims to suit their whims. Lucas follows the killers, along with a police posse, in a multi-state chase. A terrific thriller with a plot that moves at breakneck pace.

The Beat Goes On by Ian Rankin - This is the complete collection of Inspector Rebus short stories, featuring the cranky Edinburgh, Scotland detective. The stories are presented in chronological order, spanning the years as John Rebus moves from young Detective Constable to veteran Chief Inspector. An entertaining treat for fans of the Inspector Rebus novel series.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Private Eye Elvis Cole Returns in THE PROMISE

The Promise by Robert Crais is a latest crime novel in the popular series featuring L.A. private eye Elvis Cole. Cole is an unconventional, wise cracking detective who drives a vintage yellow Corvette and has a Disney wall clock in his office.

Cole's new client hires him to find a missing woman who embezzled some company funds. But the case immediately goes wrong. A brutal murder, missing explosives, and a cold blooded killer named Mr. Rollins all make Cole realize he has been hired under false pretenses and something much bigger is going on.

The story allows Cole to meet LAPD officer Scott James, who is part of a K-9 unit along with his police dog, Maggie. Cole and James work leads together to find the explosives, but this makes James himself a target of the sadistic Mr. Rollins.

The Promise is not one of the stronger novels in the Elvis Cole series. The pairing of Cole with Scott James and Maggie adds a new element to the plot. But the storyline feels forced and over-padded at times and the climactic scenes are a let down. For a better taste of the Elvis Cole books, try The Forgotten Man and Chasing Darkness.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Harry Bosch is Back in THE CROSSING by Michael Connelly

The Crossing by Michael Connelly sees popular character Harry Bosch return in a new police procedural mystery. Bosch is now retired as an LAPD detective. When defense attorney Mickey Haller asks Bosch to assist as an investigator in a homicide case, Bosch doesn't want to do it. He spent his whole police career putting such criminals behind bars. It would mean "crossing over" to help the other side if he works to free an accused defendant.

But Bosch does grudgingly agree to at least take a preliminary look at the murder case. The victim was a woman brutally beaten to death in her home. The accused suspect is a black former gang member, whose DNA was found at the scene.

The case looks solid until Bosch starts digging deeper. He doesn't like what he finds. Too many things don't fit. It looks like Haller's client may have been set up, possibly by someone inside the LAPD.

When new murders occur as Bosch keeps probing, things take a dangerous new turn. Someone unknown will keep killing to protect themselves and Harry Bosch is the next target on the list.

The Crossing is a riveting, outstanding read for mystery fans. Michael Connelly continues to deliver, book after book, the best novels in the police procedural genre.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Stephen King's BAZAAR OF BAD DREAMS a Dark Ride

Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King is a short fiction collection that ranges across genres from Horror and Fantasy to dark mainstream fiction. Running through the stories are the two common themes of fatalism and fear of the dark things that are always waiting somewhere in human lives.

The best tale in the collection is the outright horror novella, "Mile 81," about a monster in the form of a derelict car that sits waiting for victims at a deserted highway rest stop. The story has echoes of the straight horror shudders that King produced early in his career. Other entertaining tales are "The Dune," "Obits," "Ur," and "The Little Green God of Agony."

Less successful are a few of the mainstream fiction pieces like "Morality," "Under the Weather," and "That Bus is Another World." These are dark meditations that feel like they're reaching too hard for something and are ultimately unsatisfying.

That said, Bazaar of Bad Dreams is on the whole Stephen King's best story collection since Everything's Eventual. The stories are all told in the author's trademark earthy, colloquial, "Big Mac and Fries" style. Faithful King fans should be pleased with this new volume of his work.