Tuesday, June 03, 2008

I have been reading a lot of crime fiction recently:

Flood by Andrew Vachss: Burke is a detective and con-artist working in New York City. A foster child and ex-con, he has a special feeling for cases involving abused children. When a mysterious woman named Flood arrives, Burke is hired to find a child killer so she can take revenge. I read about this series when it was name-checked by the great Irish crime writer Ken Bruen, and I was very impressed. Vachss writes in the hard-boiled American detective story tradition, and Burke walks the mean streets of New York City filled with prostitutes, street corner prophets and runaways. The characters in particular are memorable, Burke coming off as an updated Philip Marlowe, and his colleagues like the technology expert The Mole are drawn with subtlety and care. This was a very well written and consistently engaging story, and I look forward to checking out the rest of the series. Fans of dark crime fiction will find much to enjoy here.

Dirty Money by Richard Stark: When we last saw the master criminal Parker, he and his associates had seen their armored car heist in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts go spectacularly wrong. With one co-conspirator in the clink, and the money too hot to handle, Parker had to stash it in an abandoned church with hopes of going back for it later. When he hears that the jailed robber has busted out, killing a US Marshall in the process, he knows it's now or never to get the money. He hooks back up with the cons from the scam, never knowing who to trust and always watching out for the double cross. Can Parker get the money with every cop in three states on the lookout? Can he launder the money to make a profit when the authorities have all the serial numbers? Richard Stark is the pseudonym crime writer Donald Westlake uses when he wants to write hard boiled crime fiction in the tradition of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. It's tough guy crime noir at its finest and highly recommended.

Blood Trail by C.J. Box: Wyoming Fish and Wildlife game warden Joe Pickett is on the trail of a killer. Someone is hunting the hunters, and leaving them for dead in the woods. Meanwhile, and anti-hunting protester has come to town, looking to make a statement. Trapped between scheming, manipulative bureaucrats and the clock ticking on more murders, Pickett must solve a multi-layered and complex crime. C.J. Box is a talented and thoughtful storyteller, and his Pickett series is one of the best in contemporary crime fiction. He explores both sides of an issue in his novels (like the morality of hunting) but these philosophical concerns never get in the way of the narrative. While the auxiliary characters can seem a little one-dimensional, particularly the women of the novel who are portrayed as either manipulative b-words or mom and apple pie saints, the meat of the crime story is substantial and memorable.

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