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Tag Archives: mystery

IQ: I’m Gonna Git You Sucka

Joe Ide, IQ (Mullholland Books, 2016)

IQ cover

School bully with his crew cut and his shoulders, telling me I was a pansy… photo credit:


Detective novels are a dime a dozen, and have been just about forever. If you’re going to break into the genre successfully, as hundreds of authors try to do per year, you have to come up with an angle. Devilish mysteries. A pace the reader has never seen before. Complexity, but on a scale the laymen can understand. Amazing characters. Now we have debut author Joe Ide, who did a fantastic job with the last of those to come up with IQ.

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Birdman (1999): I Wanna Take It As Far As We Can Get

Mo Hayder, Birdman (Dell, 1999)

[originally posted 22Nov2002]

A bird, with a shadowy figure lurking, decorates the book cover.

Alcatraz this ain’t.
photo credit: Goodreads

Another of the sheaf of new British mystery novelists who’ve been getting picked up by American presses recently, Mo Hayder offers up her debut novel, Birdman. And what a debut.

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Wild Horses (1994): Childhood Living Is Easy to Do

Dick Francis, Wild Horses (Jove, 1994)

[originally posted 19Feb2002]


A racehorse, impaled by a sword as if on a carousel, decorates the book's cover.

Too close to call.
photo credit: Fantastic Fiction

Wild Horses is Dick Francis on top of his game. It stands as one of the highlights of the long and somewhat distinguished career of one of Britain’s best-known mystery novelists.

The tale is that of Thomas Lyon, ex-jumps jockey and presently filmmaker. He’s been signed on to make a movie based on a novel based on a twenty-six-year-old police case regarding the alleged suicide of a trainer’s wife. In the small British racing world, Lyon and the trainer are connected through various channels, and Lyon, along with the film’s reluctant producer O’Hara, idly speculate that maybe, in the making of the film, they might actually solve the case. As all this is going on, an old friend of Lyon’s dies, leaving Lyon all of his racing-related books and ephemera. A number of others want to get their hands on this material, and will stop at nothing to do so, including viciously beating the man’s elderly sister. Lyon realizes that everything’s tied in a lot closer than it seems, and the chase is on.

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Resurrection (1988): Dias de los Valtos

William M. Valtos, Resurrection (St. Martin’s Press, 1988)


[originally posted 19Feb2002]

Two people stand in the distance, staring at the ghostly face that dominates the book cover.

Lazarus is back from the dead, looking as one would expect.
photo credit:

Late-eighties horror novels that faded quickly into obscurity seem to be becoming something of a specialty of mine these days; I’ve read more than I care to count in the past few months. I find that, in general, most of them had very good reasons for becoming obscure. Resurrection is no exception to that rule, but there’s something about it that sets it apart from your run-of-the-mill horror novel. There were some sparks of true potential running through here. If the reviews of Valtos’ most recent novel, The Authenticator, are anything to go by, it sounds like he’s realized that potential in later books. More power to him. If you’re a Valtos fan, this may well be worth picking up as a “where did they come from?” type book. If you haven’t yet been introduced to him, picking this up may, hopefully, make you want to grab the newer book (it did in my case).

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Early Autumn (1981): The Pinnacle of Parker’s Career

Robert B. Parker, Early Autumn (Dell, 1981)

[originally posted 12Feb2002]

All the leaves are brown and the sky is grey. photo credit:

All the leaves are brown and the sky is grey.
photo credit:

It may still be a little too early in the game to call the Spenser novels some of the great twentieth-century detective fiction. There cannot, however, be any doubt as to the continuing popularity of, and loyalty to, the line of novels written by Robert Parker about the combination renaissance man/gumshoe. Over the twenty-odd years since The Godwulf Manuscript hit the shelves, Spenser fans have accumulated like mosquitoes in a light fixture. We’ve watched the characters, consistent over the space of more than twenty novels, grow and change, not just reflecting the spirit of the times (go back and read about some of the godawful getups Spenser dressed in in the mid-seventies, and you can easily imagine Spenser himself looking back and saying, “what WAS I thinking?”) but reflecting real changes in the characters themselves. Robert Parker has achieved something remarkable; he has given us a quarter century in the lives of a select few people in real-time (for the most part) without the storyline ever degenerating into soap opera.

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God Save the Child (1974): That’s Got His Own

Robert B. Parker, God Save the Child (Berkeley, 1974)

[originally posted 12Feb2002]


The book's title looms above a pistol on the book's cover.

Blood guts, bullets, and octane.
photo credit:

One of the great enduring mysteries in the literary world—and it says quite a bit that a piece of genre writing has had such a pervasive cultural effect—is the first name of Robert B. Parker’s longstanding favorite good guy, Spenser. What short memories we have, for it’s revealed in God Save the Child, the second Spenser novel. (The book contains the one scene where someone says his first name and isn’t later contradicted. And no, I’m not going to tell you what it is.) Not only that, but it also pinpoints Spenser’s age, which is something that’s come up in more than one recent review. And yes, he is getting up there. (I won’t tell you that, either. But pretty soon, the A&E made-for-TV movies will have to cast Don Ameche and Garrett Morris as Spenser and Hawk.) For any Spenser fan, those two things alone should be reason enough to go back and correct any error they may have made by not reading this at their earliest opportunity. To cap off the must-read things about this book, it’s where Spenser first meets Susan. Okay, get thee to a bookstore and get to work.

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Corruption (1993): French Kiss

Andrew Klavan, Corruption (St. Martin’s, 1993)

[originally posted 19Feb2002]

A small stand of trees overlooks a lake on the book's cover.

Death is just a heartbeat away.
photo credit: Amazon

Klavan is finally starting to get the reputation he deserves, though the recent film version of Don’t Say a Word may well knock him back a notch. But the author of such recently acclaimed novels as The Uncanny and The Animal Hour has been around, lurking in the shadows, for much longer than most folks give him credit. Corruption was written during his time back in those shadows, and thus the run-of-the-mill Klavan fan may be unaware of it. That’s too bad, because Corruption may be Klavan’s magnum opus; this is the book that should have put him on the map almost ten years ago.

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A Catskill Eagle (1985): Hey, It’s Better than an Appalachian Rook

Robert B. Parker, A Catskill Eagle (Dell, 1985)

[originally posted 21Jan2002]

A white eagle clutching a jeweled necklace in its beak adorns the cover of the book.

“The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter.”
photo credit: Goodreads

Spenser, Susan, and Hawk are back for another adventure. This one spends its time jetting between the two coasts. When we last left our intrepid adventurers, Susan and Spenser had decided to spend some time apart, and Suze was out in San Francisco dating some other guy. Now, out of the blue, Spenser gets a letter, saying she’s in trouble, Hawk is in jail in a nothing little Frisco suburb, and Spenser’s help would be greatly appreciated. Spenser heads out to the left coast to get his pal out of jail, find his is-she-or-is-she-not? girlfriend, do some sleuthing, and break a few heads.

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Capsule Reviews, August 2014 (new)

Inkubus (Glenn Ciano, 2011)

Robert Englund taps his eye with a red knife on the DVD case.

This devil is out of the details. Way out.
photo credit: Ebay

Glenn Ciano’s debut film, Inkubus, is not all that great, though in hindsight it is leagues better than his followup, Infected. But then he’s starting from a pretty good place: casting Robert Englund (Nightmare on Elm St.) as a demon who walks into a police station during the night shift and starts confessing to almost seven hundred years’ worth of crimes. Why this station? You’ll find out eventually, if you stick around long enough. Whether you will want to or not depends entirely how you feel about Robert Englund; this is his movie entirely, and if you feel he’s good enough to carry it, then you’ll probably like it. I was less impressed. * ½

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The Dark Summer (1968): Polar Vortex

Nancy Buckingham, The Dark Summer (Ace, 1968)

[originally posted 28Mar2002]

Our heroine flees the house on the book's cover.

Best hairstyle ever.
photo credit:

I’ve never been quite sure what it is that defines the gothic genre, and after reading The Dark Summer, I’m even more confused. The Dark Summer (put out by Ace, better known these days for their science fiction offerings, the collectible Ace Doubles—“first in gothics!” is emblazoned across the top of this one) seems to me more a straight murder mystery with a dash of romance thrown in for good measure. No old mansions, no supernatural goings-on, no graveyards, not even a single nubile young thing being chased across a moor by an unseen assailant. There is quite a bit, in fact, more of gravy than of the grave of The Dark Summer.

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