Monday, February 26, 2018

THE ALIENIST a Dark Historical Crime Thriller

The Alienist is currently airing as a mini-series drama on TNT cable. The series is based on the original crime novel best seller by Caleb Carr. For viewers of the TV version, the novel itself offers even richer historical depth and background to the story.

Set in 1896 New York City, during the Gilded Age period, the novel follows the hunt for a diabolical murderer of multiple young boy victims. The main character is the driven, acerbic Laszlo Kreizler. He works as an alienist, a term used for the then new field of abnormal human psychology. Kreizler seeks to use his professional training to catch the perpetrator of the string of boy killings. His methods are derided by the corrupt New York police force, who do not want his help in solving the case.

What Kreizler is really doing is trying to build an early version of what is now called criminal profiling in order to catch a serial killer. He is assisted by a team of colleagues, including a crime reporter, a female police secretary, and a pair of Jewish detective brothers. Backing up Kreizler's efforts is the young New York police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt.

The Alienist is notable for its combining of a chilling criminal investigation with a distinctive historical setting. At over 500 pages, the novel is a heavy read, given the author's dense, and often ponderous writing style. But the wealth of background material may be worth the reading effort.

After the success of this novel, author Caleb Carr wrote a sequel, The Angel of Darkness, which features the same cast of characters, this time on the track of a fiendish female serial killer.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Dark, Violent Forces Swirl Through ROBICHEAUX

Robicheaux by James Lee Burke is a grim new crime novel in the long running series built around troubled Louisiana Sheriff's detective Dave Robicheaux. Still grieving over the recent death of his wife in a traffic accident, Dave retreats back into alcoholism and haunted memories of his own brutish past acts.

The novel is a swirling narrative of entanglements among a cast of hard edged, deeply flawed characters circling around Robicheaux. Smarmy, corrupt politician Jimmy Nightingale. Sordid, dirty cop Spade Labiche. Dissolute author Levon Broussard. Obese, terminally sick mobster Tony Nemo. Tough, Western-dressing detective Sheri Picard. And Dave's longtime soul brother, Clete Purcel, a hulking, brooding time bomb of violent potential.

Into this volatile mix comes a truly hideous new presence: a doughy, red lipped hit man nicknamed Smiley, whose childlike thought process as he executes his victims is blood chilling. With each new body, Robicheaux struggles to find a connection behind the seemingly random death list.

As always, the author's lyrical descriptions of the Louisiana bayou country are beautifully done. The pastoral portrait of weather and terrain stands in mute contrast to the fruitless cycle of human venality and violence that runs through Robicheaux.  

Thursday, January 11, 2018

THE WANTED a New Elvis Cole Crime Thriller

Private eye Elvis Cole is back, along with his California cool style, in The Wanted, a new crime thriller by Robert Crais. Cole is an unconventional, wise cracking detective who drives a vintage yellow Corvette and has a Disney wall clock in his office. Elvis is backed up as always by his taciturn, hard case partner Joe Pike.

A worried Los Angeles mother hires Cole to investigate her teenage son's activities. She thinks he may be involved in drug dealing. But Elvis learns the kid, Tyson Connor, is a part of something even worse. Tyson and other kids have been breaking into high-end homes and stealing expensive things.
They stole a laptop from one home with valuable information on it. Now someone wants that laptop back and they will do whatever necessary to get it.

Tyson Connor has disappeared and one of his fellow thieves has been murdered. A pair of cold blooded hit men working for a security agency are hot on Tyson's trail, killing wherever they go. Elvis Cole is in a race to find Tyson first before the kid ends up dead.

The Wanted has a stripped down plot line that reads like a bullet as the scenes shift between Elvis, Tyson, and the pair of hit men. It's another entertaining entry for fans of this popular crime novel series by author Robert Crais.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Best Mystery and Crime Novels of 2017

The last year saw the release of a variety of great Mystery and Crime reads, including double entries by some popular authors. These are the best novels of the year that were reviewed by this blog:

Rather Be the Devil by Ian Rankin - The irascible John Rebus returns, when the retired former Edinburg, Scotland police inspector is called in as a civilian consultant on a new assault case. But Rebus soon finds himself digging into an old serial murder case he could never solve earlier.

Vicious Circle by C.J. Box - Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett is back to renew his violent feud with the roughneck Cates clan, who terrorized Joe and his family once before and aren't finished yet.

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins - Suspense puzzle of memory and deceit set in a rural English village, where a local pool has claimed the lives of a series of women over the years.

Golden Prey by John Sandford - A new Lucas Davenport crime thriller. Lucas has recently joined the U.S. Marshals and he's on the track of a cold blooded robbery crew in a wild chase across Texas.

Cold Earth by Ann Cleeves - Latest book in the mystery series set in the Shetland Islands off the east coast of Scotland. Heavy rains and a landslide expose a woman's dead body inside a wrecked house.

The Late Show by Michael Connelly - Gripping police procedural that introduces a new main character, LAPD detective Renee Ballard, who works the overnight shift, dubbed the "late show."
Ballard works two violent cases she was supposed to let go of, one of which leads her toward her own imminent death.

Deep Freeze by John Sandford - Quirky crime escapade featuring Minnesota State Police detective Virgil Flowers. It's the middle of a Minnesota winter and there's a murder in a small town, where the victim had just left a high school reunion meeting before she was clubbed to death by someone.

Paradise Valley by C.J. Box - In this Western-set crime thriller, sheriff's detective Cassie Dewell renews her hunt for an elusive serial killer called the Lizard King, a long haul trucker who abducts and murders his female victims across the country. He got away from Cassie once before and she's been obsessed with getting him ever since.

Monday, December 4, 2017

TWO KINDS OF TRUTH a new Harry Bosch Case from Michael Connelly

Two Kinds of Truth by Michael Connelly is new police procedural in the series that features former LAPD detective Harry Bosch. After being run out of the LAPD, Harry now works for the small city police force of San Fernando. He's a valuable addition with his long years of police experience.

Bosch is called into a new double homicide case, where a father and son team of pharmacists are coldly shot to death inside their store. It's soon apparent that the execution-style murders are about more than a random robbery. The investigation leads toward a prescription drug fraud operation with a ruthless and violent reach.

At the same time, an old LAPD case comes back to entangle Bosch. A murderer he once put in prison petitions for a new trial, based on newly discovered evidence that will show he is innocent, and that Bosch planted material to frame him. This new charge puts Harry's whole police record into question.

Bosch must find a way to show this accusation against him is baseless and the supposed new evidence is a fraud. Meanwhile, the pharmacy homicide case leads him to go undercover, where things go wrong in a deadly way.

Two Kinds of Truth is slowed at times by a complicated plot and stretches of background material and over-explanation. But it's still a solid read for fans of Michael Connelly and his obsessive, hard nosed detective, Harry Bosch.

Monday, November 20, 2017

WIND RIVER a Powerful Western Crime Drama

Wind River is a gripping crime movie that is newly released on DVD. Set in the rugged, winter mountain terrain of Wyoming, the movie follows a storyline as harsh and unforgiving as the backdrop of its spectacular landscape.

The body of a young Indian woman is found frozen in the middle of a snowy wilderness. She is barefoot, her feet blackened by frostbite, as if she had been running from something for miles until her lungs burst from the below zero air and she dropped dead.

Because the death happened on Indian reservation land, an FBI agent is sent in to investigate. She is out of her depth in that country and she quickly asks for the aid of a local state game warden tracker. As they follow leads, a second body is found deep in the icy backwoods. This new body is a white male who worked at a nearby oil drilling site.

Things move from there toward events that are shocking in their unforeseen, suddenly explosive violence. Wind River is a powerful drama whose spare, tersely written screenplay reflects the hard realities of reservation life and Western self-reliance to survive.

This movie deserves to be on Best Picture lists this year.

Monday, October 30, 2017

DEEP FREEZE a Quirky New John Sandford Crime Novel

Deep Freeze by John Sandford is a new crime novel in the series featuring Virgil Flowers, an investigator for the Minnesota State Police. The Flowers novels are an entertaining blend of offbeat crimes, quirky violence, and sardonic humor.

It's the middle of a Minnesota winter and there's a murder in the small town of Trippton, where everybody knows everybody else's business. The victim had attended a high school reunion committee meeting, just before she was later clobbered in her home with a heavy wine bottle. But when Flowers arrives at the crime scene, the body of the presumed murder victim is now missing.

As Virgil tries to unravel that mystery, he runs afoul of another town secret and winds up getting seriously bloodied in a surprise assault by unknown attackers. Things get worse when another murder takes place that seems to connect to the first death, and it's clear there's a mystery killer on the loose in the town.

Deep Freeze is a fast reading crime escapade full of wild plot twists and turns, and livened with Virgil Flowers' country boy charm. Once again, popular author John Sandford does not disappoint.