I spend a fair amount of time — ok, too much time — commuting, and I try to use some of that time to catch up on my reading when I can:
GQ: The August issue has an engrossing — and disturbing — story of convicted Swedish serial Sture Burgwall, aka Thomas Quick. The lede: “In a remote psychiatric hospital in Sweden, there is a man known as Thomas Quick who has been convicted of unspeakable crimes. Over the course of multiple trials, he would tell his brutal stories—of stabbings, stranglings, rape, incest, cannibalism—to almost anyone who would listen. Then, after his eighth and final murder conviction, he went silent for nearly a decade. In the last few years, though, he has been thinking about all he has said and done, and now he has something new to confess: He left out the worst part of all.”
Blood Land, by R.S. Guthrie. “Crime’s an ugly constant in the big city. L.A. Chicago. New York. But when a savage murder brutalizes a small town and neighbor turns on neighbor, a tough-as-nails cop is essential to restoring order. Blood Land is a gritty, emotional saga set in the Wyoming badlands with both greed and vengeance at its core.”
Sheriff James Pruett struggles with the bottle, the murder of his wife and a town full of miscreants and connivers. Guthrie’s pace is deceptive. He brings you along through the story comfortably and easily without letting on about the mayhem unfolding. First time I’ve read the Colorado author, but it won’t be the last. Also, get the e-version free while you can.
Discount Noir, edited by Steve Weddle and Patricia Abbott. I was recently introduced to Weddle, originally from Louisiana, graduated from LSU (I try not to hold that against him), now living in Virginia. Discount Noir is a snappy anthology of crime noir with a theme. From the book description on Amazon: ” If you thought standing in line at your local megastore was murder, then you haven’t been to Megamart. These flash fiction tales of superstore madness and mayhem will make you think twice the next time you hear “clean up on aisle 13.” This collection of more than 40 stories, including those by Weddle and Abbott, are all under 1,000 words, and all about “Megamart.” Fun stuff.
Storm Surge, by J.D. Rhoades. “For beautiful waitress Sharon Brennan, the luxurious Pass Island resort is a place to make a living for herself and her daughter Glory. For amiable handyman Max Chase, it’s a place far away from his past. But there’s a lot more to Max than meets the eye. And as a Category Five hurricane bears down on Pass Island, some very bad people arrive with a plan to use the cover of the storm to steal a mysterious object, an object that powerful people want desperately enough to kill for. ”
I’ve been reading Rhoades’ excellent thrillers for a couple of years now, and haven’t found one yet I don’t like. This one, by the Shamus Award nominee North Carolina attorney/author, takes place on a Carolina barrier island with a dual threat: an mercenary hit squad and a raging hurricane.
Yellow Medicine, Anthony Neil Smith. “Deputy Billy Lafitte is not unfamiliar with the law—he just prefers to enforce it, rather than abide by it. But his rule-bending and bribe-taking have gotten him kicked off the force in Gulfport, Mississippi, and he’s been given a second chance—in the desolate, Siberian wastelands of rural Minnesota. Now Billy’s only got the local girls and local booze to keep him company. Until one of the local girls—cute little Drew, bassist for a psychobilly band—asks Billy for help with her boyfriend. Something about the drugs Ian’s been selling, some product he may have lost, and the men who are threatening him because of it. Billy agrees to look into it, and before long he’s speeding down a snowy road, tracking a cell of terrorists, with a severed head in his truck’s cab. And that’s only the start.”
This is badass stuff, top to bottom. Smith, a Mississippi Gulf Coast native, writes like a street fighter — hard, sneaky punches to the throat. If you like your anti-heroes completely tarnished, Billy Lafitte’s your guy.
Becoming Quinn, Brett Battles. “Most careers begin with an interview and a handshake. Others require a little … something more. Meet Jake Oliver. The day will come when he’s one of the best cleaners in the business, a man skilled at making bodies disappear. At the moment, however, he’s a twenty-two year old rookie cop, unaware his life is about to change.”
This is the first Jonathan Quinn novel, and the first of Battles’ titles I’ve read. This one is actually a novella, short and to the point, but thoroughly enjoyable. Normally, you don’t pull for a cop gone bad, especially a rookie cop, but Battles’ excellent writing and character development might change your mind about that.