Thursday, September 02, 2010

Recent Reads

The Devil by Ken Bruen: When Jack Taylor is refused entry onto an airplane bound for America he drowns his sorrows with alcohol and Xanax at the airport bar. There he meets the most peculiar gentleman, one who seems to know an awful lot about him and gives him the creeps. Returning to Galway with his tail between his legs, Jack reluctantly returns to his gig as a half-assed private investigator, only this time, there's a catch: everyone he talks to is turning up dead, and the man from the airport seems to be everywhere, taunting and gloating. Jack becomes convinced that this is the Devil himself and circumstantial evidence supports him... Jack has faced a lot of tough enemies over the course of the series, but does he stand a chance against the Prince of Darkness himself? Religious imagery has abounded in the books of this series, Jack is a lapsed Catholic who has investigated abused nuns, murdered priests and psychotic religious obsessives. Awash in Xanax and booze, he is convinced that this may be his final battle. Bruen returns to many of the familiar themes that he has explored in the series: the changing nature of Ireland, the battle between good and evil, and of course all of the forces of addiction that Jack deals with every day. This is the most over the top book in the series, but in a way it gets back to its noir roots, with flashes of David Goodis in Bruen's writing.

The Death and Life of Bobby Z by Don Winslow: Tim Kearney is a three time loser looking at the prospect of life in the California prison system or a shank in the back when a bright spark at the DEA realizes that he looks an awful lot like the recently deceased enigmatic drug kingpin called Bobby Z. The feds make a deal, they will release Kearney and then trade him in the guise of Bobby Z. to Mexican drug lords who don't know the truth about the real Z. If all this sounds a little too preposterous to make a good story, it gets even wilder when Tim breaks out of the drug lords lair with a young child in tow and sets up the most unlikely buddy story in a long time. Blasting through the southwest with guns blazing to keep himself and the kid alive, Tim realizes that the only way he can survive is to become Bobby Z. for real, which is when things turn really nasty. Reading Winslow is a blast, he writes with a wry, adrenaline fueled sensibility that keeps the story moving briskly. Filled with dry humor, along with fascinating characters, this is perfect beach reading for crime fans.

The Black Ice Score by Richard Stark: This was the eleventh book in the gritty, hardboiled Parker series about the cool and efficient master thief and his scores. This one is a bit unusual as Parker doesn't take an active role in the heist itself, but instead acts as a consultant to a group of men from a small recently independent African nation, whose wealth has been stolen and converted into diamonds and held in a New York City museum. Several factions are competing for the jewels, and after the Parker directed heist, another group tries to make their move by kidnapping Parker's girlfriend Claire. This was an unusual book considering the stories that had preceded it (indeed, the web site The Violent World of Parker considers it the weakest in the entire series.) But there are some points of interests for fans of the series. For a racially charged story there is surprisingly few slurs or uses of racial invective. None at all from Parker, which is not surprising, since there is only one color Parker cares about: green. Parker talks a lot more in this book than any of the others, including an entire speech at the end of the book when he's explaining Claire's kidnapping. While this wasn't one of the best ones of the series, it's far from bad, more of a transitional novel where Stark tried some new things to try to move Parker from the one-dimensional monolith into a more nuanced character. With mixed results.

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