Archive for detective

GUN MACHINE By Warren Ellis – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2013 by stanleyriiks

Ellis writes comics normally, and not your average superhero fair, but intelligent and thought-provoking action driven comics. Like Red, that the Bruce Willis and Helen Mirren film was based upon. This is Ellis’ second novel, the first being a really weird, sex-fuelled road-book across the US.

This novel has its own share of weird too, but this time the plot is a little (really little!) more traditional. Detective Tallow watches as his partner is shot by a crazy man with a shotgun and shoots the man dead. In the apartment across the hall there is a hole in the wall caused by the shooting. On further investigating Tallow finds the mother-load of weaponry, an entire apartment decorated in guns of every kind. When he enlists the help of two CSIs to help test and record the guns they find that each of the hundreds and possible thousands of weapons have been involved in a murder. Tallow has just fallen into investigating one of the worst ever serial killers New York City has ever seen…

And that’s just the start of it: native American Indian history, conspiracies and corruption, this book contains a riveting mystery and a mass of detail that draws you in.

The first few pages of this book are quite shocking brilliant, as Ellis shows off his imaginative turn of phrase and pours on the style, which drifts into an intricate plot. Tallow is the down at heel cop who needs the brutal murder of his partner to bring him back to life, and his slightly depressive, possibly suicidal tendencies manifest in a compulsion to catch the killer at any cost, including his own life, and make the dramatic chase all the more exciting.

This is not your standard crime thriller, this is a whacked out, dope-fuelled hurricane of a crime thriller, a strange and compelling mystery. Ellis writes like a demon possessed and I can’t wait to read his next novel, bring it on.

THE SPY WHO LOVED ME By Ian Fleming – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 24, 2013 by stanleyriiks

Those expecting nuclear submarines and dastardly spy shenanigans are likely to be disappointed, as Fleming experiments with an almost non-Bond Bond novel. Here we have a book narrated in the first person by a young Canadian woman in an empty motel, Vivienne Michel, reliving her past loves (basically abuse at the hands of men), and whiling away the hours until dawn arrives and she can leave. But half way through the night two men (gangsters) turn up and things get nasty. They seem intent on giving Viv a hard time and one even beats her, the threat of rape and murder hangs in the air, and when Viv tries to escape she is shot at.

Fortunately, about three quarters of the way through the novel, Bond turns up and takes matters into his own hands.

So, not your standard Bond novel then. The use of Viv as a filter for the hardened Bond character works well, and was probably a nice change for Fleming, but it could be seen as a strange departure by fans expecting a typical Bond novel.

Although there is the subtle hint of menace throughout the book, this is a strange kind of love story, with Viv becoming besotted with her hero almost as soon as he arrives. The book is enjoyable enough, Bond is on hand to help ramp up the action for the final quarter, and the book is short enough and well-written enough, to keep your attention. But this seems like a step too far from the traditional Bond stories, Fleming’s evocative and stylish prose isn’t as effective here, and the lack of action and tension that normally drive the books is missing.

Fleming was by this time moving away from his pulp fiction beginnings and into detective/mystery territory with the novels, but apart from the love-story echoes this is pure pulp. The gangster criminals in the shape of Sluggsy and Horror could easily have come from a Charlie Chan or Spider novel. A departure from the Bond canon, but not a bad book, a more female view of the action hero that is James Bond, license to thrill.

KILL THE DEAD By Richard Kadrey – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 9, 2013 by stanleyriiks

It’s not often that a book comes along that excites me. It’s not often that anything excites me. In fact, it’s a very rare occasion that anything wakes me from the tortured stupor that is my day to day life. I read almost constantly to escape the dull oblivion that is my pitiful existence.

And then a book like this comes along…

James Stark (demon fighter and part-Angel celebrity) is dragged into LA’s zombie while being Lucifer’s bodyguard. And that’s barely scraping the surface of this story, but I don’t want to ruin the surprises in store for you.

This is the second book in the Sandman Slim series, and if I haven’t read the first book then go read it. Go now. What are you waiting? Go, just go. No, don’t read any further, get it now! Right now I tell you!

You could probably pick this book up and struggle along to catch up, but don’t. The first book is a hell of a story (literally), and there’s far too much you’ll have missed out on if you start the series with book two. Although this is pretty much a stand-alone story, this is very much the second part of a series, and there’s a ton of background (and it’s really fun background!) that you’ll miss out on if you skip the first book. Do not skip the first book! DO NOT!

Stark is a serious piece of work, an alcoholic, chain-smoking, demon assassin, murderer, kick-ass detective; just the kind of dude Lucifer wants as a bodyguard. Our hellish anti-hero is a brilliantly humorous, angry young man, killing vampires and zombies with witty asides, and inventive techniques.

Kadrey has produced an LA dripping with monster filth, which works so well. This is a city bound-up with demons and hellions, drowning in Sub-Rosa (magical families), and is an antidote to those good folks in the Harry Potter novels. These magicians would cook up Harry and his pals for breakfast and then shit them out as zombies. This is hardcore witchcraft, terror and death.

This book is demented genius. Kadrey raised the bar for urban fantasy with Sandman Slim, and the expectations were high for the second book in the series. Not only does Kadrey gives us another exciting episode, but he continues to explore one of the most fascinating and engaging narrators/creatures in modern genre literature.

Sandman Slim is dead. Long live Sandman Slim!

PRIVATE LONDON By James Patterson and Mark Pearson – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 16, 2012 by stanleyriiks

Eight years ago Hannah Shapiro and her mother were abducted in Los Angeles. When Hannah’s father, a multi-billionaire refuses to give the kidnappers their ransom Hannah’s mother is raped and killed, and Hannah is saved by Jack Morgan minutes before she would have been murdered.

Now Hannah is studying in London, and Jack Morgan’s international Private Investigation Agency’s London office, with Dan Carter taking the lead, are heading up the protection. Until Hannah is kidnapped, and Dan Carter’s goddaughter is put in hospital with a smashed skull in the attack.

Also, a series of bodies are turning up with organs missing along with half of their wedding-ring fingers.

This is a fast paced thriller, and great fun. The London setting is well-thought out, and actually adds to the action, the capital’s various transport links used to perfection as part of the story. The secondary plot of the missing-organ bodies seems unrelated, and strangely tacked on. I continued to await a development which would link the two plots, but found nothing to indicate any relationship.

Dan Carter is a hero with a heart, and not your normal tough-guy, he’s a big softy deep down, but also doesn’t pull his punches. Apart from that the Private London crew are a series of clunky non-standard stereotypes barely fleshed out.

This is the second book in the series, but I didn’t feel like I was missing anything. There is some back story, but it works to flesh out some of the characters.

Good, fast paced action. Nicely entertaining, but nothing of substance, still a great book to read on a plane or a beach, and I’ll certainly be back for some more light reading with Private Games the third in the series. Good middle of the road fun.

DYING WORDS By Shaun Hutson – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 6, 2010 by stanleyriiks

I like Shaun Hutson. His books are invariably entertaining. Mindless violence, action-packed, thrill-a-minute page-turners, Hutson provides a Hollywood Blockbuster of a novel.

Dying Words, whilst not his best work, is still a good solid read, and offers some nice insight into Hutson’s mind as we see two writers, one a grossly successful horror writer, the other an intellectual biographer, both are prime suspects in a murder. Then another body turns up. Then another. Detective Inspector Birch has no clues, the murders were committed in closed rooms, flats or houses, all locked from the inside. But as Birch digs deeper he starts to find out secrets that no one wants uncovered…

What starts off as a simple crime novel, ends with a fantastic twist that unfortunately doesn’t come as much of a surprise. It wouldn’t have been believable at all if it had, but the lead-up is pretty clear.

Although the book lets down with the lack of surprise, it’s still a Hutson book, rip-roaring action throughout, and unflinching in every sense. Hutson peers into the nooks and crannies other writers are afraid to even think of, and that’s what we want.

Shaun Hutson churns out his books with such regularity that it’s hard for the average reader to keep up, in which case if you haven’t read one of his novels there are better ones out there, but for the passionate fan or collector then this will fit nicely on your shelf with the rest of Huston’s novels.

It’s a shame that I’ve recently read a similarly themed book by Paul Kane, which does the whole crime/horror novel with a little more skill and panache, and after that I’m afraid that Hutson doesn’t quite measure up.

Of course Hutson still delivers his trade-mark in-your-face style and plenty of action, the first few chapters alone are brilliant. But Dying Words doesn’t work as well of other books of a similar kind, and Hutson has produced better. Not his best and not his worst, and who wants to read middle-of-the-road anyway?

NEKROPOLIS By Tim Waggoner – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 26, 2010 by stanleyriiks

On the cover SF Site says this is an “exciting mystery”, well, I’m not sure what book they were reading, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t this one. This isn’t so much a mystery as a travelogue or an adventure.

Mathew Richter is a zombie, he’s a dead detective who followed a serial killer and warlock to the dark world of Nekropolis, the underworld where all manner of creatures live and non-live. Nekropolis is an amazing land, filled with vampires, were-creatures, witches and warlocks, talking insects, and the aforementioned zombies and other creatures of the dead. It’s a riot of Tim Burton-esque touches that will appeal to any horror and fantasy fan. A kind of really dark Harry Potter world, Diagon Alley after Voldemort takes over!

Anyways, back to the story. Mathew is contacted by a hot blond half-vampire who is in charge of her father’s – one of the five dark lords who rules Necropolis – collection of rare magical artefacts. One of the items in the collection is a powerful magical crystal capable of destroying the entire city, and today just happens to be Decension Day, when the five dark lords and Father Dis (the god and creator of Nekropolis), join forces to re-energise Umbriel, the dark moon that lights the city. And the artefact has gone missing.

So the meagre plot involves Mathew and his half-vampire friend searching the city of Nekropolis to find the artefact. But this is not about plot, it’s much more about exploring the amazing world of Nekropolis. Our protagonist is really the city, and whilst Richter and his squeeze are fairly well developed, there’s not really much to any of the other characters, and many of the citizens only make a brief appearance.

The book fails on many levels, the plot not the least as our hero goes round the entire city meeting up with someone to ask a few questions and then moving on to the next clue, and working his way round the city. The trail of clues (if you can call it that, some are tenuous to say the least!) is fairly easy to follow, or the next trip just takes them to another unexplored section of the city, seemingly at random. There isn’t really a mystery, and there’s no overall tension apart from the situational type as Richter finds himself in some sticky situations during his investigation.

But it’s still so much fun to discover the city. It’s like entering the world of nightmare, which since this book was originally written, has been explored by Tim Burton, Harry Potter and Hellboy. But this manages to be just a little darker than all of those and is all the better for it.

With a decent plot and some new material this book could be scarily good! Well, the good news is that the second and third books have been commissioned! Excellent.

Despite its failures this is still a bloody good book, and you’re unlikely to read anything else like it. It will make you grin with delight and make you want to visit the strange world of Nekropolis. It’s the perfect travel-guide, it’s just not the best novel.

Writing…

Posted in Life..., Uncategorized, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 7, 2009 by stanleyriiks

I’m having a hard time writing at the moment. It’s not a lack of ideas, it’s more a lack of passion. I discovered writing when I was in my teens and loved it. I felt compelled to write down my every idea, thought and feeling. I kept a diary, I wrote most days. It wasn’t a choice, it was as natural as waking up, as natural as eating.

I wrote thousands of stories and seven novels, I wrote reviews and articles that appeared in magazine all over the place, but I wasn’t ready to share my fiction. I wanted to keep it for myself. I didn’t edit hardly any of it because I hate editing.

Then one summer, lacking ideas for my latest novel, I decided to edit the ones I had already written. I worked my way through all of them, and then again. Pretty soon I’d been editing for two years, and hadn’t written anything. For me editing takes the passion out of writing, it makes writing lose the magic that makes it special.

I haven’t written anything substantial for several years now. The fire that burned inside me is almost out. I have no lack of imagination, no lack of inspiration, just a lack of sitting my arse down and writing.

Writing now seems like a chore rather than a joy. In fact most things in adulthood seem like a chore. But some chores take priority, like earning money to pay the bills.

I’m not focused on writing like I was before. I have too many other hobbies that take up too much time.

I still write a short story occasionally, although I now have to push myself. When I do a spark of that old fire comes back, the joy returns while I weave my world from words. But I need a kick-start, I need something to push me.

Whilst threatened with redundancy earlier in the year I planned to write a book and to learn a language, at least until I found another job. Fortunately the redundancy didn’t happen, but unfortunately I don’t have the time to spend doing the things I would really like to do.

My latest idea was to get my books proof-read by a professional and start submitting them, but that’s actually fairly expensive if you want it done properly, and trust me, from what I can remember of my last (fourth) edits of my novels, they need to be looked at properly.

So I sit, filling up a blank screen with my moaning instead of writing another story, one I have an idea for. About a private detective who is visited by a beautiful woman who brings with her a box that kills people when it’s opened. Ok, so it’s not that original, but I could do something with it.

May be I would try and see where it takes me…

THE CHOSEN CHILD By Graham Masterton – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 8, 2009 by stanleyriiks

THE CHOSEN CHILD By Graham Masterton

In Warsaw there have been a number of murders. The victims have all been decapitated. The police have no clues. When Jan Kaminski hears a child’s cries on a building site he goes to investigate, only to become the latest headless victim of the murderer they are calling The Executioner.

The building site that Jan is killed on belongs to Senate Hotels, an international company who will try anything to get round the various delays that having a murder on your site entail. Sarah Leonard, an American of Polish descent, is determined to pull out all the stops to keep the project on track and on budget. But as more murders take place Sarah finds that the only way to do that is to find out who the murderer is…

Masterton mixes in some history, a bit of gangster warfare, and a nice bit of fraud and treachery to spice things up.

Post-communist Poland is well realised, with lots of intricate detailing adding to the brooding atmosphere of the novel. Some of the best parts of the book take place in the pre-war sewers.

The characters are all present and correct, but don’t really touch you in the way a Stephen King character does. The focus here is on the story, the mystery that unravels as Sarah and her rag-tag bunch of investigators get closer and closer to the murderer, and the sources of other problems.

Despite a weak ending which feels like the publishers have demanded that every loose end is tied up, and what looks to be the Charles Bridge in Prague on the cover, and the strangeness of the villain, this is still a good read. Not many horror novels feature Poland, which is fascinatingly portrayed, and the sewers make one of their best appearances (claustrophobic, atmospheric, tight, stinky, perfect home for a murderer) in horror novel since The Rats.

Overall this is an above average novel that keeps you turning the page, but is ultimately forgettable.

THE KULT By Shaun Jeffrey – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 25, 2009 by stanleyriiks

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THE KULT By Shaun Jeffrey

www.leucrotapress.com

 

It’s rare that I get excited by a book, but Shaun Jeffrey’s The Kult really grabbed me.

The book was sitting on my sofa when my girlfriend picked it up and started flicking through, the next thing I know she’s over a hundred pages in and won’t let me have it back. My girlfriend doesn’t read horror, SF or fantasy, she reads romances and crime thrillers and she’s usually not willing to deviate despite my best attempts to educate her. She’ll gladly watch a horror film with me, hiding behind her hands, but I’ve not seen her manage ten pages of a novel before throwing it back at me and spitting, “that’s disgusting!”

So when I discovered she was a hundred and twenty pages in after only one day, I asked for it back so that I could review it and was a little taken aback when she said I could have it when she was finished and not until. I had to pry it from her cold dead fingers, but it was worth it!

Prosper Snow is a detective on the hunt for a serial killer called The Oracle. The Oracle is a nasty piece of work who sends photos of his mutilated victims to alert the police. He leaves no clues, no bodies, nothing for the investigating team to work with except the photos. And the photos of the bodies are starting to pile up.

When one of Prosper’s oldest friends enlists the help of their revenge group, called The Kult, he has little choice but to help out. But this time the retribution the group is seeking isn’t a simple beating to avenge a bullying as in the past, like when they were kids, when the group started. This time it’s vengeance for a rape. And the penalty for the perpetrator is death.

From the start this is a dark and atmospheric story that absorbs the reader. This is a mystery that keeps you guessing as Prosper and his friends are drawn further into the machinations of the serial killer, eventually finding themselves on the hit list. The tension continues to ramp up as members of The Kult turn up dead and we run out of suspects.

This is edge of your seat stuff and it’s difficult to put the book down as you haveto keep going. I polished the three hundred odd pages off in two days, and read the finale with a grin on my face, loving every minute of it. The final few pages will see you sighing with relief as you travel through the novel with the protagonist and feel his every effort to remain alive.

Just thinking about The Kult fills me with excitement, it’s like the feeling you get coming out of the cinema after watching a really good film, you feel alive. You just want to dive back in and experience it all again.

When I started reading this book I was thinking about making references to the British best-seller Shaun Hutson, whose novels are also fast-paced, action packed and furiously tension-filled. Jeffrey shares these attributes, his story is similar brutal and nasty as well, but The Kult leaves you not only deeply satisfied but also somehow wanting more.