Archive for mystery

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.

FOR YOUR EYES ONLY By Ian Fleming – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 8, 2011 by stanleyriiks

I love James Bond, he’s my hero, a womanising action man, with a license to kill and an adventurous lifestyle. I love Ian Fleming too. Bond’s creator lived almost as exciting a life, although he was incredibly human in his weaknesses and failures, whereas Bond is the perfection of Fleming’s misdeeds.

What gets me every time I pick up a Bond book is the writing, the richness, the sheer imaginative grace that exudes from every sentence. There is a vibrancy in Fleming’s work that makes you forget about some of the ridiculous plots, the super villains, and the vehicles turned into dragons (Dr. No).

I still consider the Bond books the essential step away from pulp and into the modern thriller, they are the (not so) missing-link between the pulp action crime thrillers such as The Spider, and the cold-war heroes of the seventies and eighties, Bourne et al. The not quite perfect combination of action, hi-jink, over-the-top entertainment, and that essential ingredient, realism.

The eighth book in the series, For Your Eyes Only is the first short story collection, featuring some familiar titles such as the title story, and “Quantum of Solace” and “A View To A Kill”, and two other less familiar titles. Although the stories contained in the books will be much less familiar, having little or nothing to do with the films that followed.

An incredible collection of tales, diverse and entertaining in their own ways, each of the stories stands out as individual and unique. Bond works so well in short fiction, but only rarely do you get the full character of Bond, sometimes he is there merely as background such as in “Quantum of Solace”, a story told to Bond by a senior civil servant.

A nice little book at just over two hundred pages, I finished it in a couple of days and hankered for more. Not necessarily Bond at his best, but Fleming’s writing here is not as overwhelmed with fabulous plotting, and some of these stories are perfectly, brilliantly exciting. Another Bond fix that delivers.

HARBINGER OF THE STORM By Aliette de Bodard – Reviewed

Posted in Morpheus Tales Magazine, Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2011 by stanleyriiks

With the kind permission of Morpheus Tales. This review will appear in the April issue of the  MT Supplement.

You know how sometimes when you meet someone for the first time, for absolutely no reason that you can put your finger on, you have an instant dislike – like a kind of anti-chemistry – and as you get to know them a little better you find out your initial instinct was complete and absolutely correct? (Lots of people who meet me for the first time get this impression.) That’s what happened with this book.

It should have been fine. A murder mystery set in Aztec Mexico at the height of the Aztec empire, somewhere around the fifteen century. Sounds interesting enough. Except that it’s really not. It’s not a murder mystery for a start; it’s more a political drama with a few deaths and murders thrown in. This is not Poirot. The story is much more reminiscent of Macbeth or Hamlet as it follows of the political intrigues when the ruler dies and his replacement must be found.

The minutiae of finding the new leader is epic, on a scale that even those not taking an instant dislike to, will find hard to bare. De Bodard, in her afterword, says herself that the process would likely have been shorter than she’d written it. Of course it would. The only things that would feel longer would have been having my fingernails removed with pliers, or my testicles boiled on a low heat.

One of the problems with the book is that you just don’t care. The characters, with their incomprehensible and mispronounce-able names, are interchangeable, having no distinguishing characteristics. The fact that half of them are priests and the other half are imperial family doesn’t help matters. There’s so little tension that a couple of deaths acts only to wake you up a little.

The fantastic Aztec Mexican setting is ruined by keeping everything within the courtly areas of the temples. There’s no jungle, no danger, no atmosphere. The Aztec setting, rather than spicing things up just adds to the confusion with the many-syllable names and a little of their religion. For one of the most blood-thirsty warrior nations in the world there’s little blood-shed, only once is sacrifice mentioned, and there’s absolutely nothing to help alleviate the boredom.

Can a book really be that bad? Everything good you might imagine should be contained in this book has somehow been removed. It’s rather like my mother’s cooking, when at her worse she manages to remove everything that’s good from every single ingredient until what you end up with is a vapid, insipid, flavourless slop. De Bodard seems to have fashioned this book in the same way. What should work just does not, and it doesn’t work unrelentingly. A failure of epic proportions, but a book that can be read. Probably the worst book I remember finishing, but finish it I did, and I feel quite proud to have suffered such torment and survived. I can only hope that Volume 1 in the Obsidian and Blood series was very different, and that the following third volume won’t make the same mistakes as the second.

Of course there are worse fates than having to read this book again, waterboarding or the aforementioned bollock boiling. Both of which I would recommend before attempting to read this.

ANNO MORTIS By Rebecca Levene – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 8, 2010 by stanleyriiks

Zombies in ancient Rome? Gladiators and zombies? I bet the publishers were wetting themselves hearing the idea for this. Unfortunately somewhere along the line the idea got a little watered down as the plot developed.

A female gladiator, a rich young playboy, a pampered slave and a mysterious red-headed man join forces when they discover there is an ancient Egyptian Sect planning on opening the gates of death in Caligula’s Rome. Fighting not only the all-powerful sect, which has infiltrated all of high society, but also staying out of reach of the crazy Caesar, will keep our company occupied.

Ok, so the passion and excitement that swelled with the idea is a little tempered. But it could still be a pretty good book.

And it is, until the end, when all goes to hell, literally, when our heroes have to go to the land of death, visiting with the Gods themselves in their efforts to put things back to normal. While the Roman zombies are set up nice and plausibly, the ending just goes too far, breaking through the thin web of believability, heading into unknown realms. It just goes too far, the “twist” ending, which takes up the last fifty odd pages, just makes all of what happened previously a waste of time.

The characters are pretty good, and the book starts well, but the ending virtually ruins it.

Abaddon Books can be praised for virtually starting the current trend of historical zombie stories, but unfortunately for them other people are doing it much better.

So much promise, so much disappointment. A worthy effort, but only for those obsessed with the undead, otherwise there is better on offer.

ALARUMS By Richard Laymon – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 20, 2010 by stanleyriiks

Laymon’s plots are normally fairly linear, a group of girls are attacked whilst spending the night in an abandoned building, a family is attacked in the middle of the night and the daughter is the lone survivor and must run from the killers who will stop at nothing to track her down. All good stuff. All nice and simple.

But with this one we get something a little different. A little bit of mystery thrown in, but only a little bit.

Melanie Conway is at a recital when she collapses, having a fit which provides her a vision of her father or sister in a near-fatal accident. She grabs her boyfriend and heads back home from college, wondering who is hurt (visions are such pesky unreliable things!) and what’s happened, not being able to get either of them on the telephone.

Penny Conway receives a horrible message on her answer phone. A man, a pervert, calls three times, each time leaving a nasty, sick message for her. He says he’s coming to get her, to do the things he said he would.

When the Conway sisters and Melanie’s boyfriend meet up at the girls’ father home, they find his new wife might be sleeping with their dad’s partner. Not only that but the lovers may have actually committed the accident that had left their father in a coma.

This novel has much more mystery than most Laymon books. Unfortunately that doesn’t really make it better. Laymon is best when he’s driving us forward at break-neck speed, ploughing on with the action-fuelled plot. This book really only kicks into gear towards the end.

There nothing really wrong with the book, Laymon always writes readable books. But having read a few of his before, he writes fast food horror novels, exciting, fun and entertaining, but leaving nothing memorable behind.

Good fun, but nothing special and not even one of Laymon’s better books.

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.