Review: Murder in Montmartre

This review originally appeared on Buried Under Books.

Murder in Montmartre
Cara Black
Soho Press, 2006
ARC from Creatures ‘n Crooks

On the wide, shop-lined Boulevard de Clichy by the Moulin Rouge, its garish neon now dark, plumes of bus exhaust spiraled into the air. A straggling demonstration blocked the street as loudspeakers shouted, “Corsica for Corsicans!”

Waiting passengers stood on the pavement with that particular patience of Parisians, the collective shrug of acceptance reserved for slowdowns and strikes. Newspaper banners plastered across the kiosk read STRIKE IN CORSICAN CONTRACT DISPUTE. Another said ASSAULT ON ARMORED CURRENCY TRUCK LINKED TO ARMATA CORSA SEPARATISTS.

She saw a peeling poster on a stone wall bearing a call to action and the Armata Corsa Separatist trademark, the tête de Maure, a black face with white bandanna, in the corner.

The strident Separatist movements in Corsica took center stage these days, elbowing out Bretons demanding school instruction in Gaelic and ETA, Basque Nationalists, car bombings.

Right now Aimée needed to speak with the person in the apartment with geraniums in a window box to discover if he or she had seen anything.

One January night computer security expert and private detective Aimée Leduc attends a retirement party for a former colleague of her father’s. Before the night is through a rookie police detective, a childhood friend of Aimée’s, is accused of murdering her partner. Continue reading


Review: One Was a Soldier

An earlier version of this review originally appeared on Buried Under Books.

One Was a Soldier
Julia Spencer-Fleming
Minotaur Books, April 2011
ARC from Creatures ‘n Crooks

The St. Alban’s volunteers served lunch to men in mechanic’s overalls and feed store caps, and to women headed to Fort Henry for the afternoon shift behind a cash register at the Kmart or the Stewart’s. They served the slow-moving, dignified elderly, and occasionally the young, darting around their mothers or fathers.

Clare tried to speak with as many people as she could, even if it was as brief as a greeting and a “Lord, it sure is hot today, isn’t it?” Pouring drinks, swiping spills off the tables, bringing diners seconds, she could feel her vocation reassembling around her, feel herself changing from a single recipient of God’s grace into a conduit, from someone clutching with tight fingers to someone giving away with both hands. She had long though that if Jesus were around today, he’d be feeding people at a soup kitchen instead of washing their feet.

At long last, One Was a Soldier, the seventh book in Julia Spencer-Fleming’s popular and well-regarded mystery series, will be released next week. I’m sure I’m not the only reader thinking, “Finally!” Continue reading

Review: The Holy Thief

This review originally appeared on Buried Under Books.

The Holy Thief
William Ryan
Minotaur Books, September 2010
ARC from Creatures ‘n Crooks

“I’m investigating the murders,” [Korolev] managed to say. “If it’s in my power, I’ll bring whoever committed them to justice.”

“Soviet justice?”

“It’s as good as any. The system may not be perfect—I’m not blind. These are eyes in my head. But we work for the future, a Soviet future. And it’s as fair as any damned justice system the capitalists ever lied about.” He could feel his leg trembling against the bale of hay. Was it anger or some other emotion? He wasn’t sure of anything any more. But if he didn’t believe the leadership weren’t working for the People’s future—well, where would he be? What hell would he find himself in then—if it all turned out to be a blood-soaked lie? He spat on the floor to ward off the thought, and then fumbled for another cigarette. He put it in his mouth, reaching for his matches, but Kolya had already extended a lighter.

“Thank you,” Korolev said, hearing the gruffness in his voice. He offered the Thief the packet.

“You’re an honest man. And you are a Believer, aren’t you?” Kolya seemed to be weighing him up.

“It’s none of your business.”

“Maybe it isn’t. But what if, at some stage, you have to decide between your loyalty to the church and your loyalty to Comrade Stalin. How do you think you would decide?”

In 1936 Moscow, as Stalin’s notorious Great Purge is heating up, Comrade Alexei Korolev is a battle-scarred, world-weary veteran who publicly swears fidelity to the Soviet Union and privately hides a Bible beneath a floorboard in his bedroom. Continue reading

Review: Burn

This review originally appeared on Buried Under Books.

Warning: This book deals with the sexual enslavement of children. While Barr does not indulge in graphic, prolonged descriptions, there are scenes near the end that leave little to the imagination. If the subject matter disturbs you, proceed with caution.

Nevada Barr
Minotaur Books, August 2010
ARC from Creatures ‘n Crooks.

In a city she was not familiar with—at least not in any but a surface, tourist sense—it would be too easy to stumble into organized crime networks and get hurt or killed. When people thought of organized crime, it was the Mafia or the tongs or, in recent years, the banks, careless of whom they destroyed in their grasping for money. The big guys were scary, but the networks most regular people ran afoul of were the small-time franchises, pimps who “owned” prostitutes and prostitutes who “owned” street corners and drug dealers who “owned” territories. The criminal equivalent of mom-and-pop stores. Every city, and a lot of small towns, were riddled with them.

Burn, Nevada Barr’s sixteenth Anna Pigeon mystery, is something of a departure from previous installments. Continue reading

Review: Savages

This review was originally posted on Buried Under Books.

Don Winslow
Simon & Schuster, July 2010
ARC from Creatures ‘n Crooks.

Every great company has an origin story, and here is Ben and Chonny’s:

They’re hanging out at the beach, Chon on extended leave between his two hitches, and they’re playing volleyball on the court next to the Hotel Laguna.

Ben and Chon are the kings of the court, and why not? Two tall, lanky, athletic guys who make a great team. Ben is the setter who thinks of the game as chess, Chon is the spiker who goes for the kill. They win a lot more often than they lose, they have a good time, and tanned chicks in bikins and suntan oil stop and watch them do it.

It’s a good life.

Savages consists of 290 chapters in just over 300 pages. The writing is staccato, aggressive, punchy, with abbreviated sentences that frequently fall into

staggered breaks

like this;

the occasional scene rendered in screenplay format as though the POV character were imagining it as a movie; the liberal use of em-dashes, acronyms and a weirdly compelling southern California version of Cockney rhyming slang; and more pop-culture references and brand-name dropping than you can swing a dead cat at.

The story is thus: Ben and Chon run a very lucrative marijuana growing and distribution business. Continue reading

Review: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

This review was originally posted on Buried Under Books.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
N.K. Jemisin
Orbit, February 2010
ARC from Creatures ‘n Crooks.

I knew that once my people had been heretics. That was why the Amn called races like mine darkling: we had accepted the Bright only to save ourselves when the Arameri threatened us with annihilation. But what Nahadoth implied–that some of my people had known the real reason for the Gods’ War all along and had hidden it from me–no. That I could not, did not want to, believe.

There had always been whispers about me. Doubts. My Amn hair, my Amn eyes. My Amn mother, who might have inculcated me with her Arameri ways. I had fought so hard to win my people’s respect. I thought I had succeeded.

When Yeine Darr is summoned to her ailing maternal grandfather’s royal court, she is shocked to hear herself named one of three potential heirs to the Arameri throne. She is a half-caste, the product of her mother’s rebellious marriage to a tribesman from the barbarian north, her dark skin and hair clearly marking her as an outsider in the capital city of Sky. Court intrigue abounds, however, and Yeine quickly learns nothing in Sky is what it seems – not even Yeine herself. With only days left until the king announces his final choice as heir, Yeine finds herself at the center of a power struggle between her world’s gods that stretches millennia into the past, far beyond the range of mortal reckoning. As she marshalls all of her resources to keep up with the ever-changing scenario, Yeine is forced to decide whether she can make a very personal sacrifice that could alter all life on her world forever.

Continue reading

Review: Then Came the Evening

This review was first posted on Goodreads.

Then Came the Evening
Brian Hart
St. Martin’s Press, December 2009
ARC from Goodreads‘ First Reads giveaway

Sleep would not come easy this time and he knew it as soon as he blinked and opened his eyes and there was no difference between the two. He began and suffered through an inventory of the reasons why he should leave and why he shouldn’t be allowed to be out at all. He wondered if regret would ever relax its hold on him. It doesn’t have to be that way, he told himself. Sleep and tomorrow you can be a new man, a free man.

Over the course of a single night, Bandy Dorner loses everything: his home, his pregnant wife, and, after gunning down a cop in a drunken rage, his freedom. Twenty years later, Bandy’s given the opportunity to start over from scratch.

Continue reading